NEW YORK—Dozens of celebrated writers, poets, and artists have called for the lifting of all restrictions on Chinese poet and artist Liu Xia, held under illegal house arrest without charge since October 2010.

This show of literary solidarity comes following revelations about Liu Xia’s declining health, which she revealed in April during a harrowing phone conversation with friend and exiled writer Liao Yiwu.

Rita Dove, Paul Auster, JM Coetzee, Khaled Hosseini, Hu Ping, and Michael Chabon are among the group of writers who have read excerpts of Liu Xia’s poetry as part of a video campaign advocating for her freedom.

Khaled Hosseini, author of the Kite Runner, said: [I support this campaign for Liu Xia] as artists who are free to speak must do so on behalf of other artists whose voices are being stifled.”

The excerpts celebrate some of Liu Xia’s most powerful works while calling on the Chinese government to end their cruel campaign of retaliation against her for her late husband Liu Xiaobo’s calls for democratic reform.

During the phone call with writer and friend Liao Yiwu released on 2 May  Liu Xia, who suffers from depression, said she was “prepared to die” under house arrest.

Suzanne Nossel, PEN America Chief Executive Officer, said: “Liu Xia’s cry for freedom resonates around the world and rebukes the Chinese government’s hollow claim that she is free. 

“As  efforts to allow Liu Xia to travel abroad for medical treatment stall, literary and human rights communities renew and amplify their call to release a poet who has been accused of no crime.

“We are proud to stand with Liu Xia’s literary peers to celebrate her work, and challenge the Chinese government’s relentless campaign to erase her voice.”

Lisa Tassi, East Asia Campaigns Director at Amnesty International, said: “The Chinese government’s efforts to silence Liu Xia are despicably cruel. Liu Xia’s poetry inspires so many who are now united in calling for her to be free.”

Liu Xia has been under illegal house arrest since Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. She is still closely monitored by state security agents and can only be reached by her closest friends by phone in limited circumstances.

She has also been moved from her home in Beijing and held incommunicado for periods of time following the death of Liu Xiaobo in July 2017, with unverified clips appearing periodically on YouTube showing her in various locations in Beijing and Yunnan province.

Liu Xia is known to be in poor health, and suffers from severe depression, but has been prevented from travelling abroad to seek treatment.  

The videos can be found here

Full list of participating artists: 

Alec Soth, Photographer

Alice Sebold, Author of Lovely Bones

Ayelet Waldman, American novelist

Chang-Rae Lee, Korean-American novelist

Daniel York, British theatre actor

Jason Ng, Hong Kong author

Jennifer Lim, Singaporean-British actress

JM Coetzee, Nobel Laureate in Literature

Khaled Hosseini, Author of Kite Runner 

Ma Thida, Myanmar writer

Michael Chabon, 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction/ 2008 Hugo Award for Best Novel

Naomi Christie, Chinese-British actress

Nicholas Wong, Hong Kong poet

Paul Auster, American novelist/ Man Booker shortlist

Philip Gourevitch, American writer and journalist

Rebecca Boey, British writer and actress

Rita Dove, American poet

Robert Pinsky, American poet

Siri Hustvedt, American Novelist/ longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize and won the 2015 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction

Siu Hun Li, Chinese-Scottish Actor

Tammy Ho, Hong Kong poet

Tina Chang, American poet

Xu Xi, Hong Kong-Indonesian novelist

徐友漁 Xu Youyu, Chinese writer in the US

胡平 Hu Ping, Chinese writer in the US

马建 Ma Jian, Chinese-born British writer

Chang Chuan-fen, Taiwanese writer, scholar and activist

Yen Hung-ya (Hung Hung),  Taiwanese poet and artist


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator:​