Freedom Now is greatly relieved by reports that Liu Xia boarded a flight early Tuesday morning from Beijing en route for Germany. Her release comes nearly eight years after she was placed under house arrest without any formal charges and monitored by strict surveillance. Her physical and mental condition had worsened since the death of her husband Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, last year.
Freedom Now joins the international community in celebrating Liu Xia’s release after eight painful years and can only hope that she will finally have the space and support to grieve and heal. Freedom Now’s Executive Director Maran Turner adds “the tragedy of what has been done to her by the Chinese government is shameful. We are relieved she is now safely outside the country that held her hostage for many years. While the government abused her rights for so long, we hope that she will finally be left in peace.”
Liu Xia is a poet and the widow of Liu Xiaobo, one of China’s most prominent dissidents. Liu Xiaobo was imprisoned in 2009 for his role in drafting Charter 08, a political manifesto that calls for increased rule of law, greater respect for human rights, and the end to one-party rule in China. In December 2009, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison and two years deprivation of political rights. He was granted medical parole in June 2017 and passed away a month later while receiving treatment for terminal liver cancer.
Liu Xiaobo’s case was brought to our attention in the fall of 2010 by prominent Chinese dissident Yang Jianli, a former political prisoner himself. After Liu Xia was informed that her husband had won the Nobel Peace Prize, she was escorted to Jinzhou prison to tell him. She was then escorted back to her Beijing apartment where she has been kept under house arrest for the past eight years, despite the lack of any formal charge and the Chinese government’s claims that she was under no legal restriction. She had been battling depression the past year, telling a friend by phone in May that it was “easier to die than live.”
Working with pro bono counsel Jared Genser, Freedom Now engaged in a wide variety of efforts on the Lius’ behalf to advance their freedom, including:
- Winning the Lius cases before the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which issued Opinion Nos. 15/2011 and 16/2011;
- Submitting the case of the Liu Xia to the UN Committee Against Torture;
- Securing a letter from 154 Nobel Laureates to President Xi Jinping on the Lius’ behalf;
- Coordinating a global effort which resulted in 450,000 signatures on an online petition being delivered in person to six Chinese embassies around the world; and
- Sending a letter from 12 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates to President Obama urging his help on the Lius’ behalf.