Writers Worldwide Mourn the Death of Writer-Activist Liu Xiaobo in Chinese prison

Politial protest in Hong Kong against the detention of Liu Xiaobo, Photo courtesy of  Pederez under CC BY-SA 2.0 license


The death of Liu Xiaobo will forever mar China’s reputation under international law and global human rights standards, PEN America said today and called on China to Release Late Literary Icon’s Wife, Liu Xia

Liu Xiaobo, a brilliant writer, literary critic, and pro-democracy activist, was a founding member and former president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center. After his arrest, PEN America honored Liu with the 2009 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, kicking off an international campaign for his freedom that culminated in his receipt—in absentia—of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

PEN America held a candlelight vigil earlier this evening at the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the U.N. to honor Liu Xiaobo’s legacy and protest continued human rights abuses in China, where more than forty writers are currently in jail. This free, public event featured readings from the work of Liu and his wife, Liu Xia, who remains under house arrest in China without charge since her husband’s receipt of the Nobel Prize.

PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel released the following statement today in response to news of Liu Xiaobo’s death today:

“The death of Liu Xiaobo today from a virulent cancer contracted while serving an 11-year prison sentence will forever be a black mark marring China’s reputation under international law and global human rights standards.

“As President of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, Liu Xiaobo was a friend and compatriot for writers all over the world who struggle against tyranny using words as their sole weapon. Liu Xiaobo’s purported crime was no crime at all, but rather a visionary exposition on the potential future of a country he loved.

“For the act of penning seven sentences, China punished Liu Xiaobo with a long prison term, limiting his access to state-of-the-art medical care that might have prevented his illness or improved his prognosis. China’s refusal to honor Liu Xiaobo’s last wish to travel overseas for treatment and its decision to hold him incommunicado during his dying days are a cruel epitaph in the tale of a powerful regime’s determination to crush a brave man who dared challenge a government that sustains its rule through suppression and fear. Liu Xiaobo was not afraid. His courage in life and in death is an inspiration to those who stand for freedom in China and everywhere.

“Our thoughts are with Liu Xiaobo’s family and friends, especially his beloved wife, the poet Liu Xia, who has been kept under house arrest, harassed, and hounded for years without charge. The only thing the Chinese government can do now to expiate its complicity in the death of Liu Xiaobo is to grant his wife, Liu Xia, the freedoms in life that her husband gained only in death. PEN America calls on China to immediately grant Liu Xia freedom of movement, expression, and travel lest their crimes against Liu Xiaobo claim a second victim.”


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. The organization champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

his living room, a poem

never saw my father’s living room,
but i imaged it, cut kitty-corner,
end to end, into triangles, like
mom’s grilled-cheese sandwiches,
hope dying on the one side
despair thriving on the other

  “There’s only one great evil in the world today. Despair.” Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies

© 2017, poem and illustration, Jamie Dedes


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