New York City—PEN American Center today expressed alarm over reports that Chinese authorities have arrested Liu Hui, the brother-in-law of jailed Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo. In a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, PEN protested the development, citing reports that the arrest may be an attempt to increase pressure on Liu Xia, Liu Xiaobo’s wife and Liu Hui’s sister, who has been under extralegal house arrest since October 2010.

The Associated Press reported today that Liu Hui was detained on January 31, 2013, in advance of a family reunion for the Lunar New Year. He was formally arrested two weeks ago and charged over a business dispute that is believed to have been resolved, and he is reportedly to stand trial in May. Reports on the arrest suggest that Liu Xia and her family believe the arrest may be politically motivated, and possibly in retaliation for two visits she received from international media and from friends late last year. Both those visits, which broke through a strict security cordon around her Beijing apartment complex, were recorded and released to the public.

 “PEN American Center has been increasingly concerned about Liu Xia since the world saw a glimpse of her thanks to the two visits by journalists and her friends,” said Larry Siems, director of the Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. “Liu Xia is clearly under mental duress and is suffering from her 903 days of extralegal detention, and this is just one more troubling bit of pressure. We call on authorities to remove all restrictions on her right to freedom of movement, association, and expression and to end all restrictions on and harassment of her family members.”

“We also continue to call for our PEN colleague Liu Xiaobo’s immediate and unconditional release from Jinzhou Prison, where he is serving an 11-year sentence for his writings,” Siems concluded.

Liu Xia has been denied access with the outside world since October 8, 2010. Her Internet and phone lines have been cut, and she is only permitted occasional visits with family. A security cordon surrounds Liu Xia’s apartment and prevents anyone from visiting her. That security cordon was breached by AP reporters on December 6, 2012, and by Liu Xia’s friends on December 31, 2012—both these visits revealed a startled and overwhelmed figure who cannot believe she is face to face with visitors. In February 2011, Liu Xia was able to send a message to a friend saying she was “going to go crazy” and asking for help.

Learn more about Liu Xiaobo, 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 on PEN’s work, please visit

For more information contact:
Sarah Hoffman, (212) 334-1660 ext. 111, sarah [at]