Poetry News

Human Rights Officials, Translators Concerned About Poet Liu Xia, Wife of Recently Passed Chinese Dissident Liu Xiaobo

By Harriet Staff

Liu Xia, artist, poet, and widow of Liu Xiaobo–the Chinese dissident, literary critic, and Nobel Peace Prize–winning writer who died in prison of liver cancer last week–is a subject of concern for governments and human rights officials, reports the New York Times in a story about Xia's forthcoming book of photographs and poems, for which Xiaobo had written a devoted preface. Xia was under house arrest and constant surveillance after her husband was awarded the Nobel in 2010. "Ms. Liu has found her isolation hard to take. In a rare interview in 2012, when reporters with The Associated Press managed to evade guards outside her apartment in Beijing, she said, 'Kafka could not have written anything more absurd,'" writes Chris Buckley. More:

Now Ms. Liu won’t have even the consolation of visiting her husband once a month and hoping for his release.

“That’s what we’re worried about. Now he’s gone, we’re all worried that Liu Xia will face serious difficulties and struggle to cope,” said Wu Yangwei, a writer who uses the pen name Ye Du and is a friend of the couple.

If she stays in China, the house arrest and surveillance won’t let up for several years at least,” Mr. Wu said. “She needs to go somewhere free so that she can preserve her health, otherwise the consequences could be unthinkable.”

The United States, European Union and other Western governments voiced the same fears, as did the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. In tributes to Mr. Liu, they all urged Beijing to end the unofficial detention of Ms. Liu, and to allow her to leave China if she wants.

“There’s an incredible sense of urgency about how best to help her,” said Sophie Richardson, the China director of Human Rights Watch. “Every single government I’ve talked to in the last week has been very focused on how to try to help her. We are sick with worry about the prospect of her just going right back into house arrest.”

Find the full story at the NYT

Liu Xia's translators have also made statements that plea for China to give the poet the freedom to move. Jenny Kronovet, co-translator of Liu's Empty Chairs: Selected Poems (Graywolf), had this to say:

Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia have been powerful symbols in the fight for democracy in China. But reading their poetry, one is reminded that in addition to being symbols, they are also real people, full of humor and insight and love for each other. I hope that Liu Xiaobo continues to be a powerful symbol in China and across the world, but I also hope that Liu Xia will have the chance someday to just be a person, free.

More from Graywolf editors and translators here.

Originally Published: July 17th, 2017