After 3 years house arrest China writer Ms. Liu Xia shares poems of isolation

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Ms. Liu Xia with picture of husband
Intellectual poet and writer who has been under 3 years of house arrest in Beijing, China Ms. Liu Xia is shown holding on of her favorite photos of her imprisoned husband, Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Image: PEN American Center 

(WNN) Beijing, CHINA, EASTERN ASIA: Chinese artist, poet, writer and intellectual, Ms. Liu Xia, who is also the wife of imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, has made poetry her ‘voice to the world’ in a secret video made from her location while under house arrest in Beijing, China during the month of December 2013. The video of Xia reading her poems has just been recently been released to the public through PEN America Center and the PEN Independent Chinese Centre, along with Friends of Liu Xiaobo, who are advocates for freedom of artistic expression inside China.

Xia has been under house arrest for 3 years as her husband Xiaobo is fulfilling an 11 year sentence that brought him to be considered worldwide to be a prisoner of conscience. In 2010 he began his incarceration at the Jinzhou prison in Liaoning, China. As a defender of human rights and a supporter of democracy reform in the country, Xiaobo’s sentence was handed down after a 3 hour court case where the legal defense in the case was silenced by officials at the Beijing People’s Court as Xiaobo was charged with “inciting subversion of state power” on December 23, 2009.

Confined in a small apartment in Beijing where she lived with her husband before his incarceration, Xia is currently battling depression during her long days under house arrest. Her writings and actions, as well as her husband’s, continue to be scrutinized closely by Chinese authorities. In the past years Xia has asked government authorities inside China numerous times to be allowed to see and read her husband’s letters from prison. But she has been denied. She has also asked for permissions to see her doctor, a request that has also been denied by authorities.

Looking intent and engaged as she holds a cigarette in the video, Xia’s reads her poems giving a ‘thumbs up’ at the completion of her reading.  The poem words she shares are tinged with hope, intelligence, strength of purpose, loneliness and isolation:


Is it a tree?
It’s me, alone.
Is it a winter tree?
It’s always like this, all year round.
Where are the leaves?
The leaves are beyond.
Why draw a tree?
I like how it stands.
Aren’t you tired of being a tree your whole life?
Even when exhausted, I want to stand.
Is there anyone with you?
There are birds.
I don’t see any.
Listen to the sound of fluttering wings.
Wouldn’t it be nice to draw birds on the tree?
I’m too old to see, blind.
Perhaps you don’t know how to draw a bird at all?
You’re right. I don’t know how.
You’re an old stubborn tree.
I am.

(Translated by Ming Di)



Before going to drink with my old brother
I will unplug my telephone

Coming back drunk
I always could not help phoning a friend

After drinking I might look ugly
and sound piercing

Waking up
I then realized

nobody would like
to listen to nonsense from a drunk

The friend’s voices from the phone
became strange and distanced

At such a night after drinking
I would love Raymond Carter

For two drunks
to write useless poems face to face
feeling neither shamed nor embarrassed

I will always, always remind myself
before getting drunk

unplug the telephone

(Translated by Yu Zhang, edited by Tim Lilburn)

Persecution of rights defenders in China comes with a long history of censorship, arrest, intimidation and imprisonment in the country. While Chinese authorities convey that they do welcome and encourage all citizens the People’s Republic of China to feel free to make petitions of complaint to authorities, those who do are often sanctioned and intimidated.

“Officially, the Chinese government encourages petitions and has an extensive governmental bureaucracy to handle them. In practice, however, officials at all levels of government have a vested interest in preventing petitioners from speaking up about the mistreatment and injustices they have suffered,” said a 2008 release by CHRD – Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an international human rights network of international and Chinese advocates. “The Chinese government has developed a complex extra-legal system to intercept, confine, and punish petitioners in order to control and silence them, often employing brutal means such as assault, surveillance, harassment of family members, kidnapping, and incarceration in secret detention centers, psychiatric institutions and Re-education through Labor camps,” continued CHRD.

In 2010 when Liu Xia’s husband, Liu Xiaobo, received his Nobel Peace Prize from the International Nobel Committee in Oslo, Norway the People’s Republic of China censored and blacked out all media news that covered Xiaobo’s prestigious international award. This censorship included all newspapers, radio broadcasts, television news, along with internet websites and online forums that mentioned Xiaobo during that time.


Liu Xia, a poet and wife of imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, has been under house arrest since October 2010. PEN America Center received this video, recorded in December 2013, through the Independent Chinese PEN Center and Friends of Liu Xiaobo.


In this video produced by Amnesty International USA, Liu Xia, the wife of Liu Xiaobo has been illegally held under house arrest for over 26 months. She has not been able to communicate with others or leave her apartment freely. On December 28, 2012 a group of activists attracted Liu Xia’s attention outside her apartment beneath her window. They discussed how to get around the security guards through the side door. Liu Xia welcomed them with hugs and tears. The meeting was brief, just three minutes as they wanted to avoid conflict with the security guards whose backup team would rush in soon. Some friends kept talking with Liu Xia through the windows and Liu Xia threw out some chocolates to them to express her thanks. Some were arguing with the security guards, explaining that they were just Liu Xia’s friends to celebrate Liu Xiaobo’s birthday with Liu Xia. Eventually, all the friends managed to return home safely. In March 2013 two TV journalists who were hoping to interview Liu Xia were severely beaten by unidentified men when they showed up to talk with Xia, reported CPJ – Committee to Protect Journalists.


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