After Liu Xia’s Freedom, it is Time to Redouble the Call for Others’ Freedom in China

Updated: Apr 26, 2019

On July 10, 2018, Chinese authorities finally ended their de facto house arrest of Liu Xia, a painter, poet, and the widow of Liu Xiaobo—China’s most famous activist, Nobel Laureate, and social research author. She was allowed to leave China after almost eight years of living under house arrest, days before the anniversary of her husband’s death.

Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo, at the Helsinki International Airport on July 10. (Jussi Nukari/AFP/Getty Images)

Despite facing no charges, the 57-year-old poet has endured heavy restrictions on her movements since 2010 when her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize, an award that infuriated Beijing. However, though she is free and living in Germany now, many believe Liu is unable to enjoy her this freedom for fear that Beijing may take revenge on her brother, Liu Hui, who is under house arrest on accusation of fraud.

Although we rejoice in her freedom, Liu should never have experienced such unjust incarceration in the first place—neither should have countless others, including students and academics unjustly jailed in China.

Liu’s freedom came after coordinated and persistent international advocacy that was reinforced by many human rights groups and supported by many European countries, notably Germany. This shows that campaigning and international pressure do in fact work.

Now that Liu Xia is free, we must intensify our efforts in advocating for the release of the countless other academics and human rights defenders in China.

Those Who Still Remain in Jail

In China the number of political prisoners exceeds 1,400 by some counts and feasibly over a million if we include the widespread incarceration of Uyghurs in what China calls “re-education centers." It is already too late for some of these political prisoners such as