PEN Sounds Alarm Over Treatment of Jailed Nobel Laureate’s Wife in China
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York City, February 22, 2011—PEN American Center expressed extreme concern today for the well-being of Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who has been completely isolated since October 18, 2010, and continues to be denied any contact with the outside world.
Over the weekend, PEN received news from colleagues that Liu Xia, who has been incommunicado under house arrest since shortly after the Nobel Committee announced it was awarding her husband Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize, sent an urgent message to a friend that she and her family were being held hostage by the government and that she was “going to go crazy.” Contrary to reports filed over the last several months, Liu Xia has not had any contact with her family or friends and has been isolated in her Beijing apartment for more than four months with no cell phone or Internet access to the outside world. She was reportedly able to establish an online connection for several minutes during the lunar new year and issue her urgent appeal.
The news comes amid a rash of disappearances, attacks, and detentions aimed at opposition voices inside China and a wave of Internet and news censorship of coverage of popular uprisings in the Middle East. Last week, PEN denounced a series of brazen attacks on foreign journalists seeking to visit Chen Guangcheng, a dissident lawyer living under house arrest, calling the attacks “thuggery” and a blatant violation of the international right of all to hear from China’s citizens. A number of prominent human rights lawyers have been beaten or detained for meeting to discuss Chen’s situation, and several members of the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC) have been detained in recent days and more have been put under house arrest. Liu Xiaobo is a former president of ICPC and serves as an honorary president. Its members have faced an increased crackdown on their movements and communications since October.
“These persistent attacks on the fundamental freedoms of China’s own citizens threaten the prospects for good relations with those of us who have the privilege of living in free societies,” said PEN American Center President Kwame Anthony Appiah, who nominated Liu Xiaobo for the Nobel Peace Prize. “While they are doing these terrible things, we cannot have the kind of open exchanges with China that we long for because they would benefit us all.”
“The suppression of free expression also undermines China’s own development,” Appiah added. “It seems to me that the Chinese government has drawn the wrong lesson from the wave of resistance to oppression they can see on their televisions in Africa and the Middle East. The right lesson is that the voices of the people need to be heard.”
PEN American Center Freedom to Write Program Director Larry Siems urged the world to join together in support of Liu Xia and Liu Xiaobo. “The government has followed up its international bullying over the Nobel Prize with an even more reprehensible bullying of the Prize recipient’s wife.” Siems said. “Liu Xia is essentially being held in solitary confinement in her own home, in clear violation of international and Chinese law. I hope writers and readers around the world will join us in standing up for her basic human right to see her friends, her family, and her unjustly-imprisoned husband.”
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, which works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled, has been working to end China’s imprisonment, harassment, and surveillance of writers and journalists and curtail Internet censorship and other restrictions on the freedom to write in that country. For more information, please visit www.pen.org/china
Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105
Sarah Hoffman, (212) 334-1660 ext. 111