Widow of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo ‘ready to die’ over house arrest

Liu Xia despairs as talks to free her from house arrest appear to stall

Liu Xia: “Xiaobo is gone, and there’s nothing in the world for me now. It’s easier to die than live.” Photograph: Petar Kujundzic

Liu Xia: “Xiaobo is gone, and there’s nothing in the world for me now. It’s easier to die than live.” Photograph: Petar Kujundzic


Liu Xia, the widow of the late human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, says she is “ready to die” in protest at being under house arrest for over seven years, as talks to secure her release appear to have stalled.

“Now, I’ve got nothing to be afraid of. If I can’t leave, I’ll die in my home,” Ms Liu said during a telephone conversation with a friend, the Berlin-based dissident writer Liao Yiwu.

The poet, painter and photographer sounded desperate and at her wits’ end in the conversation, which Mr Liao posted on the US-based human rights website, Chinachange.org, with her permission.

“Xiaobo is gone, and there’s nothing in the world for me now. It’s easier to die than live. Using death to defy could not be any simpler for me,” said Ms Liu, who has been under house arrest since her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2010 while in prison for subversion.

Liu Xiaobo died of liver cancer in a Shenyang hospital in July 2017 after serving nearly nine years of his 11-year sentence. He was denied permission to go abroad for treatment.

Ms Liu suffers from clinical depression and her friends say she is on the brink of collapse.

German efforts

Since Liu Xiaobo’s death, there have been talks led by the German government to secure Liu Xia’s release and allow her to travel overseas, but moves were delayed by the Communist Party congress in November, then again by the annual parliament, the National People’s Congress in March.

Last week, Germany’s ambassador to China, Michael Clauss and the US government renewed calls for Liu Xia to be released from house arrest and allowed to travel overseas.

There were indications that she might be released last month, but moves to free her appear to have stalled.

The government has said that, as a private citizen, she is free to do as she pleases and that the details of her case remain an internal affair.

Traditionally, high-profile Chinese dissidents have been allowed to leave the country to move overseas. In recent years, many have travelled to Berlin.

Since he came to power in 2013, President Xi Jinping has overseen a major clampdown on dissent, with a campaign leading to the arrest and jailing of human rights defenders, underground Christians, rights lawyers and feminists.

Audio clip

Liu Xiaobo was jailed for co-authoring a petition known as Charter 08 seeking political reform. His death in hospital made him the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in custody since the German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky died in Nazi custody in 1938.

During the audio clip excerpt of the 16-minute phone call, Mr Liao urged his friend not to give up hope. Liu Xia said she had her bags packed and was ready to leave China.

Mr Liao said he released the recording because German chancellor Angela Merkel was planning a China trip soon and “we want as many organisations and individuals to hear Liu Xia’s own voice”.

At one point in the conversation, Ms Liu declared: “I’m so f**king angry that I’m ready to die here . . . If I’m dead, it’ll all be done with.”