Liu Xia (刘霞)

February 28, 2017

Liu Xia 刘霞

*Under medical watch

Crime: N/A

Length of Punishment: N/A

Court: N/A

Trial Date: N/A

Sentencing Date: N/A

Dates of Detention/Arrest: October 11, 2010 (house arrest)

Date of Birth: April 1, 1961

Medical condition(s): Unknown heart condition, depression

Place of Incarceration: Home/unknown


Liu Xia (刘霞), activist, poet and wife of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, has been living under extralegal house arrest since her her husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 8, 2010. Authorities initially put Liu Xia under police surveillance following her husband’s arrest in December 2008. Following the announcement, police allowed Liu Xia to visit Liu Xiaobo in prison to tell him about the award, but then promptly put her under house arrest on her return to Beijing on October 11, cutting off her freedom of movement and expression. She can only go out under escort by national security officers, and such trips are severely restricted to monthly monitored visits with her husband, weekly visits to her parents, and any occasional shopping trip. She is prohibited from seeing friends in “sensitive circles” and her telephone and Internet communications have been shut off.

In May 2011, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) found the house arrest of Liu Xia to be arbitrary and called on China to remove the restrictions on her movement and communications, but Chinese authorities refuse to free her.

In 2012, two of Liu Xia’s friends went to her apartment building to try to visit her, but were told by a guard, citing “leaders’ orders,” that they could not see her. However, in December of that year, a group of journalists and activists managed on two occasions to evade the guards, who reportedly sleep in cots outside her door, to briefly visit with her. On December 6, 2012, two Associated Press journalists conducted the first interview with Liu since her house arrest began. She reportedly was shocked to receive visitors and described her house arrest as “absurd.” She also reportedly said authorities cut off her visits with her husband in prison for over a year after the Nobel Prize announcement. On December 28, 2012, five human rights activists evaded guards to briefly visit her, including Hu Jia, who recorded the visit and put it online. She was allowed to make her first public appearance in April 2013 at her brother’s trial, where she reportedly shouted “I’m not free” to journalists. Her brother was sentenced to 11 years in prison and then paroled, in a case seen as an attempt to further pressure and punish Liu Xia and her family; authorities have reportedly warned her that he will be sent back to prison if she speaks with activists, diplomats or journalists. In February 2014, a rare video was released of Liu Xia reading poems.

In early February 2014, police accompanied Liu Xia to a Beijing hospital because of symptoms of heart disease—reportedly diagnosed by doctors as a heart attack—and also a throat inflammation. The hospital stopped tests after just one day and sent her home, according to lawyer Mo Shaoping. Initially, doctors said she would be admitted for two weeks for comprehensive tests. On February 18, 2014, Liu Xia was hospitalized for the second time to undergo tests and treatment for a heart condition.

After her husband, Liu Xiaobo, was reported to be suffering from late-stage cancer in June 2017, authorities allowed the couple to have contact at the government hospital where the Nobel laureate was being treated. However, Liu Xia continued to be under tight control and was not able to freely communicate with the outside world. Following her husband’s death on July 13, 2017, Liu Xia was disappeared again, and brief videos of Liu Xia released around that time did not disclose her location or her condition. In late November, Beijing activist and friend Hu Jia (胡佳) reported that Liu Xia had had surgery for uterine fibroids sometime around October-November 2017, though the exact date is unknown. Hu also said Liu Xia’s depression is extremely severe.

Liu Xia has mentioned to her lawyer severe depression brought on by isolation and restrictions, but she did not want to see a psychologist, fearing that authorities may send her to a psychiatric hospital against her will. Police have warned her family not to speak publicly about her health, and reportedly have refused to allow Liu to travel overseas for medical treatment.

*CHRD’s Watch List of Detainees and Prisoners of Conscience in Need of Medical Attention

Chinese Human Rights Defenders

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