Dear President Trump, Secretary Tillerson, Ambassador Branstad and Members of the U.S. Congress:
“Liu Xia is free” state Chinese authorities. She has not, however, been seen since the July 15 sea burial of her husband, 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo. Friends and even her lawyer do not know where she is. The international community is growing increasingly concerned about her health and well-being.
I recently had dinner with activist Chen Guangcheng, his wife Yuan Weijing, and their family. Of course, much of the conversation centered on the death of Liu Xiaobo and the plight of his widow, Liu Xia. We are all very worried about Liu Xia and urge you and the international community to call for her release. Chen Guangcheng understands what Liu Xiaobo may have experienced while in prison. Yuan Weijing knows the anguish of the wife of a jailed prisoner of conscience. I include their remarks at their request and with their permission.
Chen Guangcheng: “I believe they may have taken Liu Xia to a black jail. Under the dictatorship, any place can serve as a black jail: a hotel, a basement, an organization’s office. The point is to control a person’s location and to cut them off from communication with the outside world. I do not believe they are treating her well. I remember when I was in a black jail. It was a small room. Four guards were with me all the time. They even followed me into the bathroom. I believe they are keeping Liu Xia in a black jail to pressure other activists, to show them that they will persecute their families, even after they die. But the brutality of the Chinese Communist Party will have the opposite effect. Many people are turning against the Party. They used to want to help the Party improve. Now, they say that talking to the Party is like talking to a cow. The Party cannot understand.
“The Party has been persecuting innocent people for decades, but now people are beginning to understand the true situation. The Party can control the media, but they cannot control the Internet. Now people are beginning to understand that the suffering in China is caused by the control exerted by the regime, and the lies and propaganda promoted through the state-controlled media.”
Yuan Weijing: “I have an idea of what Liu Xia has been experiencing. For the four years that Guangcheng was in prison, I thought constantly of him. Every time I ate, I wondered if he was getting enough to eat. If it was cold outside, I wondered if he was cold. If it was hot, I wondered if he was hot. At night, memories of our whole life together before his arrest would play in my mind like a movie. I could not sleep, wondering if he was being beaten or interrogated, or if he was sick and being denied medical treatment. I was very worried that I would never see him again, that our children would grow up without their father.
“During these years, I was under constant surveillance and my movements were restricted. When I was allowed to go out of the house, I was followed. Sometimes the guards did not let me out of the house at all. Every night, thugs surrounded the house and shined a flashlight through my bedroom window every 10 to 15 minutes. They would talk loudly outside the room where I was trying to sleep. If I had a conversation on the phone, they would try to overhear the conversation. In the morning, I could see where their boots matted the earth outside my bedroom window. Sometimes they took my phone away.
“They encouraged me to divorce Guangcheng, saying ‘You are so young. Other women wear pretty dresses and make-up. Why don’t you divorce Guangcheng, go back to your family and start a new life?’ I told them, ‘Guangcheng has not done anything wrong. You are doing something wrong by putting him in jail. I will wait for him.’ Did they encourage Liu Xia to divorce Liu Xiaobo during his long prison term? We may never know, but I would not be surprised if they did, as this is a common practice of the Party, both to break the activist and his wife.
“I was supposed to see Guangcheng every month, but I was only allowed to see him five times in the four years he was in prison. Once, his hair had been cut off. I asked him why. He didn’t say anything, but his face was sad. I found out later that he had been beaten. He was thin and I saw that they were not giving him enough to eat. I felt so sad but did not want to cry in front of him. After I left the prison, I cried very hard and called an activist friend to ask him to spread news about Guangcheng so we could get more help from the international community. After I did this, the guards jammed my phone and would not let me leave the house.
“So I can understand the reports that Liu Xia has battled depression. I’m sure she was very worried about her husband, and rightly so. I can only imagine her devastation at Liu Xiaobo’s tragic death. I was fortunate that my husband made it out alive.”
Liu Xia is a poet and writer. She has been under illegal house arrest since her husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, without being charged with a crime or any due process of law. She reportedly suffers from depression and was hospitalized for a heart attack in 2014. Now, she has disappeared. We are concerned for her health and well-being – even her very survival.
We urgently request that you make it a top diplomatic priority to call for all restrictions on Liu Xia be lifted immediately, that she would be able to communicate with family, friends, her lawyer and the media, and that she would be allowed to travel outside of China, if she wishes, for medical treatment or for any other reason.
We support the letter from the chair and co-chair of The Congressional-Executive Commission on China, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) in their request
that U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad invite Liu Xia to meet with him in the Embassy in Beijing.
We ask that President Trump and the ranking members of the appropriate congressional committees identify those responsible for the death of Liu Xiaobo and the extrajudicial house arrest of Liu Xia and utilize the Global Magnitsky Act to impose entry and property sanctions upon these persons.
Finally, Chinese authorities ordered that Liu Xiaobo be cremated and that his remains be scattered in the ocean. This move has been criticized by activists and friends as a way to prevent the creation of a pilgrimage site for those who want to honor Liu’s memory and carry on his work for freedom and democracy in China. We call upon the U.S. Government to create a memorial to Liu in Washington, D.C. Such a memorial might be appropriate as part of the Victims of Communism Memorial, which is a replica of the “Goddess of Democracy” statue destroyed on Tiananmen Square, as Liu was a leader of the Tiananmen Square movement.
Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia have both been heroes in standing for truth. It cost Liu Xiaobo his life. May Liu Xia, through your decisive intervention, be spared this tragic end.
Reggie Littlejohn, President