New York City, August 5, 2011—Calling the recent ruling by a United Nations body that PEN member and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia are being illegally detained “a powerful confirmation of one of the world’s most troubling, ongoing rights violations,” PEN American Center urged Chinese authorities to move quickly to end their persecution and restore their rights under Chinese and international law.

Liu Xiaobo was detained on December 8, 2008, and sentenced to 11 years in prison on December 25, 2009, for “inciting subversion of state power” by a Beijing court. After a thorough investigation, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined that Liu has been arbitrarily detained on a number of counts, including his initial detention, which was in violation of Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). It calls the trial itself a “breach of fairness” for the 14 minutes Liu was given to defend himself in court in violation of Article 10 of the UDHR, and notes that the indictment and verdict against him lean heavily on his writings in violation of Article 19, which guarantees his right to freedom of expression. The panel called for his immediate release and found that he has a right to compensation for his two and a half years of arbitrary detention.

Liu Xia, Liu Xiaobo’s wife, has been under house arrest since October 2010, when it was announced that Liu Xiaobo would receive the Nobel Peace Prize and she gave a series of interviews to foreign reporters. In a separate ruling, the U.N. panel found that she has also been arbitrarily detained by the Chinese government. The panel held that Ms. Liu was not informed of the reasons for her detention or any charges against her, and that although the Chinese government has insisted that “no legal enforcement measure has been taken against Ms. Liu Xia,” she is clearly confined to her home and has not been allowed contact with the public since October, also in violation of her right to freedom of expression. The panel called for her immediate release and found that she, too, has a right to compensation.

“We commend the U.N. for invoking very clear international laws in its calls for Liu Xiaobo’s and Liu Xia’s release from prison,” said Larry Siems, director of the Freedom to Write and International programs at PEN American Center. “As a country that aspires to play an influential role internationally, China should acknowledge and accept this ruling and release them at once.”

“These two are among far too many who have been detained in a targeted effort to silence writers and activists across China—a trend we saw just last week when we attempted to visit colleagues and friends in Beijing.” Siems continued. “We vow to continue our efforts to secure their release and ensure that China’s citizens enjoy their full right to freedom of expression.”

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 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 on PEN’s work, please visit

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105
Sarah Hoffman, (212) 334-1660 ext. 111