Rare video footage of Liu Xia (劉霞), the wife of imprisoned Chinese Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), reading two self-written poems under house arrest was posted online yesterday.
Chinese authorities have not charged Liu Xia with any crime, but have restricted her to her home in Beijing since 2010, when her husband was awarded the Nobel peace prize, following his jailing.
He was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 on subversion charges after co-authoring Charter 08, a bold petition calling for political reform.
A video of Liu Xia filmed at her Beijing home reading two poems was posted to the video-sharing site Youtube by China’s Independent PEN Center, a group of writers advocating freedom of expression in the country.
She appeared thin and smoked a cigarette as she read the two pieces, one appearing to reference her house arrest, which has seen her leave home just a handful of times in recent years under police escort and raised concerns about her mental condition.
“Is it a tree? It’s me, alone,” she read in a quiet, but determined voice. “Even when exhausted, I want to stand/Is there anyone with you?”
She followed the poem with a brief thumbs-up to an anonymous camera operator.
The videos were screened for the first time on Tuesday in New York City to an audience of Chinese and American writers and activists who have pushed for Liu Xia’s release.
Organizers said the video clips of were shot last month.
Bei Ling (貝嶺), president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center ,said the monthly visits by Liu Xia’s mother and brother to her have become more restrictive, including forcing her to communicate through plastic dividers.
The video clips were shown before organizers aired a short documentary called The Wife Outside the Barred Window, about the saga of her detention. The documentary includes footage of advocates sneaking into her Beijing apartment past security guards to give her a hug and exchange a couple of private words before being escorted out.
Newly translated poetry by Liu Xia, a founding member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, was also read in both English and Chinese at Tuesday night’s event.
Meanwhile, Chinese authorities plan to hold a pretrial hearing for prominent activist Xu Zhiyong (許志永) tomorrow morning, his lawyer said on Tuesday, suggesting that his trial may be imminent.
“Xu Zhiyong’s condition is normal, and he’s hoping for a fair trial,” Xu’s lawyer, Zhang Qingfang (張慶方) said, adding that the exact date of the trial was still uncertain.
If authorities bar Xu’s defense witnesses from testifying, Xu will refuse to speak at the hearing, Zhang has said.
Xu is best known as the leader of the New Citizens’ Movement, a loose-knit grassroots organization that aims to promote human rights, government transparency and the rule of law. He was detained in July last year after leading a series of small-scale demonstrations urging officials to disclose their assets.
Last month prosecutors formally accused Xu of “assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place,” which, according to Zhang, carries a maximum five-year sentence. Xu denies the charge.
Xu was a law lecturer at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications who built a reputation for using the law to champion causes that seemingly dovetailed with official priorities, such as food safety and education equity. He became an international cause celebre in the late 2000s after offering legal assistance to families affected by a tainted milk formula scandal.
Additional reporting by the AP and the Guardian