NEW YORK—Ahead of President Trump’s visit to China on November 8, more than fifty authors and artists have called for complete and unconditional freedom for the Chinese poet and painter Liu Xia, wife to the late author and political dissident Liu Xiaobo, who has suffered under extralegal house arrest for more than seven years without charge.

Luminaries of art and literature, including Chimamanda Adichie, Margaret Atwood, Louise Erdrich, Robert Pinsky, Philip Roth, and Stephen Sondheim issued an open letter to raise Liu Xia’s case with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who consolidated his power as President last week at the Chinese Communist Party Congress. The letter demands that Liu Xia be released and granted freedom of movement, including the right to leave China if she chooses, as she and her husband had requested in the days before his death.

“Liu Xia has undergone great suffering for many years, simply for being the wife of a man that China has deemed to be a dissident,” the letter reads. “She should be free to meet freely with family, friends, and members of the international community, free to travel where she wishes, and free to be reunited with the outside world.”

Liu Xia has been held under house arrest since the October 2010 announcement that Liu Xiaobo, who founded the Independent Chinese PEN Center, had won the Nobel Peace Prize. She was last seen on July 15 at a memorial service for her husband, who died of liver cancer in police custody earlier this year. The restrictive conditions of her house arrest have continued since then, and visitors to her home, including journalists and foreign diplomats, have been stopped by security agents. She has also reportedly been moved from her home in Beijing and held incommunicado for periods of time.

“While Chinese officials claim she is free, it is crystal clear that Liu Xia remains captive by Chinese authorities, kept away from family, friends, and supporters, and suffering from declining health,” said Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN America. “On his upcoming visit to Beijing, we hope President Trump will voice the United States’ concern about the inhumane and unjustifiable detention of a poet who has been accused of no crime. Liu Xia lost her husband when he contracted cancer in prison and faced limited treatment opportunities. Her continued torment is a singularly cruel manifestation of China’s determination to suppress not only dissenters, but someone whose only crime was to love one.”

PEN America has grown increasingly concerned about Liu Xia, who suffers from depression and a heart condition, since the death of her husband. On August 23, Liu Xia appeared in a YouTube video asking for “time to mourn.” Activists and human rights groups, including PEN America, have questioned the authenticity of the video, which fits a pattern of propaganda by the Chinese government. 


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, PEN America External Relations Coordinator:, +1.646.981.0685