Interview with Jailed Nobel Laureate’s Wife Highlights Severe Toll on Free Expression
New York City, December 6, 2012—Calling a new interview with poet and artist Liu Xia “the haunting, human countermelody to the noise surrounding this year’s Nobel literature prize,” PEN American Center urged the Chinese government to mark this year’s International Human Rights Day by immediately ending her extralegal house arrest. Liu Xia has been held incommunicado in her Beijing apartment since October 2010, when it was announced that her husband, former Independent Chinese PEN Center President Liu Xiaobo would receive that year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
The video, shot by AP reporters who managed to penetrate the network of guards and surveillance that has kept Liu Xia cut off from the world for more than two years, shows a shaken and at times overwhelmed figure who at first cannot believe she is face to face with visitors. During the subsequent interview, Liu Xia reveals that she was barred from visiting Liu Xiaobo in prison for a year after the announcement, and that now she is allowed to make the trek to Jinzhou Prison, some 280 miles away, once a month. Still deprived of phone and Internet, she remains cut off from the outside world but for weekly visits with her parents and trips to buy groceries.
“I felt I was a person emotionally prepared to respond to the consequences of Liu Xiaobo winning the prize,” she told the reporters. “But I really never imagined that after he won the prize, I would not be able to leave my home. This is too absurd. I think Kafka could not have written anything more absurd and unbelievable than this.”
PEN is asking writers and readers around the world to take a moment this week to watch the interview.
“As the world’s attention turns toward Stockholm and Oslo for next week’s Nobel ceremonies, this quiet, unsettling conversation with Liu Xia speaks volumes about the climate for freedom of expression in China—and the human cost of the Chinese government’s suppression of that right on many of our colleagues and their families,” said Larry Siems, director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. “It is shocking, the lengths Chinese authorities have gone to keep the world from hearing Liu Xia’s voice for two years. Now that we have the opportunity, we all should pause a moment and listen to that voice. And now that she has spoken, we must ensure that she and her family not subjected to further retribution.”
“To the government of China, our message this Human Rights Day is straightforward and simple,” Siems continued. “Free Liu Xia and Liu Xiaobo—and once and for all, as Liu Xiaobo himself has challenged China’s leaders, end the practice of treating words as crimes.”
Learn more about Liu Xiaobo here, and watch exclusive video of Liu Xia speaking in 2010 about officials confiscating Liu Xiaobo’s poetry.
PEN American Center is the largest of the 144 centers of PEN International, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession.
For more information contact:
Sarah Hoffman, (212) 334-1660 ext. 111