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Continuing Liu Xia’s House Arrest Is No Different from Committing a Slow Murder

September 1, 2017

[Translation by Human Rights in China]

Chinese original was published by Radio Free Asia.

On August 18, two videos of Liu Xia (刘霞), the widow of Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), began circulating online. These clips appear to have been made and released by Chinese authorities with the purpose of letting the outside world know not only that Liu Xia was currently safe, but also that she remained under their control. On August 31, which marked the 49th day following Liu Xiaobo’s death, Liu Xia was still unable to return to her home in Beijing to mourn with family members. Ever since the sea burial of Liu Xiaobo’s ashes, Liu Xia has been unreachable by the outside world.

Liu Xia has been placed under house arrest by Chinese authorities since October 2010, when Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Now after Liu’s death, the authorities still won’t loosen their grip on Liu Xia. Her current situation is even worse than before. She has been held in isolation from the world over the past seven years, during which both of her parents died and her brother Liu Hui (刘晖) was handed a hefty prison sentence on trumped up fraud charges. Under such persistent and overwhelming pressure, Liu Xia fell into deep depression and was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But Liu Xiaobo was still alive back then. So Liu Xia still had hopes, and looked forward to reuniting with Liu Xiaobo upon his release.

At that time, she mustered the courage to continue to live for the sake of Liu Xiaobo: for visiting Liu Xiaobo in prison every month, and for wanting him to feel the constant presence of their love, connection, and commitment. Simply put, it was all for Liu Xiaobo that Liu Xia carried on. But now, Xiaobo is gone. The light of Liu Xia’s hope has been extinguished, and her suffering continues. Under such circumstances, Liu Xia will feel even more hopeless and that her life is even more meaningless. And this will cause further deterioration in her physical and mental health. As described by Hu Jia (胡佳), “Liu Xia’s mental condition is very bad. Over the past seven years, she hovered on the brink of a breakdown many times and came close to jumping off of the building.” Liu Xia looks fragile, but is strong inside. But this kind of heavy, dark oppression without hope would be unbearable for anyone.

Liu Xia was put in an extraordinarily difficult situation after her brother Liu Hui was effectively taken hostage by Chinese authorities. In 2013, Liu Hui was sentenced to 11 years in prison on fraud charges and was later released on medical parole to serve his sentence outside of prison. The authorities might be threatening Liu Xia this way: if you talk to the press, see friends without asking for permission, or go abroad for medical treatment, etc., then we will send Liu Hui back to prison. For the sake of her brother, Liu Xia has to give up her freedom of movement.

Why are Chinese authorities so afraid of Liu Xia regaining her freedom? In my opinion, while she is not a public personality or political figure in essence, it’s certain that the authorities fear that she’d become an embodiment of her dead husband Liu Xiaobo in the eyes of the public. Lifting Liu Xia’s house arrest will inevitably turn her into a symbol. However, continuing Liu Xia’s house arrest is not only completely unlawful but also an extreme act against humanity. Continuing Liu Xia’s house arrest will most definitely result in great harm to her physical and mental health. Continuing Liu Xia’s house arrest is no different from committing a slow murder.

Therefore, we must speak up loudly and call on the international community to closely follow Liu Xia’s situation and to put pressure on the Chinese government and demand her immediate release. If we still don’t speak up loudly now, we may be running out of time.

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