Liu Xia (born 1961) is a Chinese painter, poet, and photographer who resides in Beijing, China. She is best known as the wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.
Liu was formerly a civil servant in the Beijing tax bureau, and met her husband Liu Xiaobo while part of the Beijing literary scene in the 1980s. She married Liu Xiaobo while he was imprisoned in China in a labor re-education camp in 1996.
Ms. Liu prefers to lead the solitary life of an intellectual. However, being the wife of an oft-imprisoned activist, she has been forced to act as his proxy in the public arena.
She has been described as her husband’s “most important link to the outside world.” Because she is the wife of one of China’s most prominent human rights advocates, she also personally experiences pressures from Chinese authorities for publicly voicing opinions. Since his arrest, she has lived under constant surveillance. From the time of their marriage, during his several terms in prison, she has continued to speak out, although somewhat reluctantly, on issues of human rights both on her own and on his behalf. Despite the pressures, she attempts to retain a life of normality.
Liu Xiaobo’s current sentence of 11 years was imposed after he helped write the political manifesto written in 2008 called Charter 08. Liu Xia begged her husband to not participate in drafting the document. After initially heeding her pleas, he went forward anyway, immersing himself for three years drafting and re-drafting the document, which he later persuaded more than 300 prominent workers, Chinese Communist Party members, and intellectuals, to sign. The document was later “signed” by 10,000 users on the Internet.
After it was announced that her husband had won the Nobel Peace Prize while he was imprisoned for an 11-year term for calling for multiparty elections in China, Liu Xia commented that “For all these years, Liu Xiaobo has persevered in telling the truth about China and because of this, for the fourth time, he has lost his personal freedom.” She also said that she would visit him in jail and “give him a big hug”. After visiting him, however, she was placed under house arrest and her mobile number deactivated.
On April 23, 2013, she was allowed out to see her brother’s trial. Many feel that the trial was politically motivated. They said that the purported dispute had been resolved, but was brought back into court for some reason. Some assert that this trial is therefore an act of attempted intimidation by the government in order to silence Liu Xia even further. During her brief stint out of her house, where she is allowed no internet, no phone, and few visitors, she found a welcoming crowd waiting for her. She shouted to them, “Tell everybody that I’m not free”; “I love you. I miss you.”; and she blew kisses.
On November 19, 2013, she filed an appeal for Liu Xiaobo’s retrial. A move that’s been called “extraordinary” because the action could refocus the world’s attention on China’s human rights record. According to her attorney, Mo Shaoping, Liu Xia visited her husband in Jinzhou Prison in Liaoning Province and gained his approval before filing this motion. (See List of prisons in Liaoning.)
The Silent Strength of Liu Xia is a collection of 25 black-and-white photographs Liu Xia produced between 1996-99 while her husband served his second stint in a labor re-education camp. It is the only exhibition of Liu Xia’s photographic work in the United States. French scholar Guy Sorman, a longtime friend of Liu Xia and her husband, transported the prints out of China and curated the exhibition at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies at Columbia University.