The wife of jailed Chinese Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo is speaking out, asking authorities to meet some basic needs of hers after three years under house arrest.
Liu Xia’s demands were released online Tuesday by a close family friend. Liu Xia is asking that she be allowed to see a doctor on her own, have more open communication with her husband and to be able to make a living.
Hu Jia is a Beijing-based activist and close friend of Liu Xia and her husband. His wife, Zeng Jinyan, helped relay the requests to Chinese authorities after traveling to Hong Kong.
Hu Jia says that what Liu Xia needs is to be able to at the very least live a normal life and to not be oppressed like a prisoner. He says that is clear that Liu Xia has committed no crimes and her husband and brother have both been sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Liu Xia's husband Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 on subversion charges. In 2010, almost immediately after her husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, she was put under house arrest. Earlier this year, Liu Xia’s brother was sentenced to 11 years on charges the family says were politically motivated.
Liu Xia is allowed to occasionally visit her husband, but she has been cut off from the outside world, barred from using the telephone, the Internet and mail. Guards are posted outside her apartment at all times and when individuals try to meet with her they are most often detained.
Hu says that during a recent visit with Liu Xia she said very little and mostly just cried and that she was almost of the verge of completely breaking down.
Liu Xiaobo’s sentencing in 2009 triggered an international outcry at the time, with the United States and the European Union calling for his unconditional release. China has shown no signs of easing off on Liu Xia or her husband since then, but during a recent high-level party meeting, China’s Communist Party leaders highlighted the need to reform and improve the country’s judicial system.
On the eve U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to China this week, rights groups urged him to raise Liu Xia and her husband’s case.
In a statement the group said Biden should press China’s leaders to make good on on their own pledges to improve the judicial system and to take concrete steps such as releasing Liu Xiaobo from prison and his wife from extralegal house arrest.
Maya Wang, a China researcher with Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong, says the issue must be discussed openly among U.S. and Chinese officials.
“Human rights is not just an isolated area that you can talk about in annual human rights dialogues between the U.S. and the Chinese government. We think it needs to be addressed," Wang said. "We think it needs to be addressed in different high-level interactions between the two countries.”
Rights lawyers in China say that over the past year hundreds of lawyers and activists have been taken into custody by authorities. On Monday, dozens of lawyers from across the country launched a petition online calling on the government to uphold the Constitution and respect the basic rights of Chinese citizens. Jiang Tianyong is one of the petition’s organizers.
"We want to raise attention to these real cases to shed light on those who have been detained and the situations like that of Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia," he said. "Liu Xiaobo was imprisoned because officials had a case against him, but his wife has been held illegally in her home by extralegal means and without any trial she has been stripped of her rights."
Jiang and other lawyers are calling for the release of Liu, his wife and other dissidents and lawyers on the grounds of freedom of speech, religious views and other basic rights already in China’s constitution. They are also urging authorities to set up an investigative committee to look into the cases and the establishment of a national court to determine whether a law, case or regulation is constitutional.
VOA Mandarin Service reporter Haiyan contributed to this report.