NEW YORK—Reports that Chinese poet Liu Xia, who is spending her seventh year under house without charge, has made rare and risky contact with a fellow writer to lament her failing her health raise fears for her life under conditions of stringent confinement and isolation, PEN America said in statement today.

According to the Hong Kong Free Press, Liu was able to reach her friend and dissident Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser by phone this week to say she was “unwell.” Woeser reports that Liu told her, “I am drunk, and am just testing to see if my telephone works, and see who I can talk to.”

Liu, a poet, artist, and founding member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, has been under extralegal house arrest since her husband Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2010 while serving an eleven-year prison sentence for his role in the Charter 08 movement. Liu Xia is unable to receive visitors and has extremely limited access to the outside world, with strictly controlled outings and limited access to phone, internet, or postal services (which are monitored). Over the past several years, she has suffered from insomnia, depression, and heart trouble, and has only occasionally been able to receive medical attention.

“The latest news about Ms. Liu’s condition is extremely troubling,” said Karin Karlekar, Director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America. “For more than six years, she has been subjected to severe restrictions on expression and movement, which constitute jail-like conditions, despite never having been charged or convicted of any crime. Chinese authorities must immediately lift her house arrest, end her isolation, and allow her to receive adequate medical care.”

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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.

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