She is Still Not Free: Writers Read Liu Xia’s Poetry and Call for Her Freedom
Dozens of writers and artists have joined together to call for the immediate cessation of all restrictions placed against poet Liu Xia, including her illegal house arrest. PEN America and Amnesty International have collaborated on a series of videos featuring celebrated literary figures and artists from around the world reading Liu Xia’s poetry as a show of solidarity and a celebration of her art.
There are certain sounds that need no translation: they are understood in any language. When one listens to the sounds of Liu Xia sobbing to her friend Liao Yiwu, as she did in a recorded conversation released earlier this month, one doesn’t have to speak Chinese to understand her pain, her frustration, her despair.
Liu Xia, the Chinese poet and artist, has been under house arrest for almost eight years. She is a prisoner not because of anything she has done, but because of who she has loved: Her deceased husband, writer and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo. Liu Xiaobo’s peaceful human rights activism made him an enemy of the state, which imprisoned him for “subversion” in 2009. Liu Xia was put under house arrest the following year. After Liu Xiaobo died in July 2017—released on medical parole with late-stage liver cancer—the government allowed Liu Xia to attend her husband’s funeral before again whisking her away from public view.
The Chinese government has continually refused to acknowledge that they are keeping Liu Xia in detention. Meanwhile, her friends grow more concerned every day for her health and for her spirits.
Liu Xia is a victim of her government’s unwillingness to accept dissent and a symbol of hope in the midst of suffering. But she is more than a symbol: She is a human being. She is an artist, a poet, a family member, a friend, and a grieving widow.
To honor this, PEN America and Amnesty International have organized a collective poetry reading for Liu Xia, where writers and artists read her work. Today we share those videos—noted authors, poets, actors, and other creatives, separated by distance, brought together to honor one of their own.
We hope to send a message—to the Chinese government, to the world, and to Liu Xia herself—that her fellow artists have not forgotten her struggle, that they have not forgotten her words. And that we will never stop calling for her freedom. Until she is truly free.
Free Liu Xia.