Vice President Joe Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Vice President Biden,
We are writing to you on the eve of your upcoming visit to Beijing to encourage you to raise the case of former PEN President and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo with your counterparts, pressing them to release Liu Xiaobo from prison, as well as his wife, fellow poet and artist Liu Xia, from extralegal house arrest.
Your visit is timely, coming on the heels of an announcement by the Third Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee that calls for the abolition of the reeducation through labor system, the relaxation of the “one-child” policy, and, more important for Liu Xiaobo’s case, the improvement of the judicial system—a notoriously weak institution in the People’s Republic of China—“to “protect human rights.” The Chinese Supreme Court followed this announcement with an announcement of its own, demanding that judges bar confessions obtained through torture and calling for less interference from the local government. In Beijing, you will have an important opportunity to press Chinese interlocutors to take concrete steps to realize these pledges.
Five years ago, on December 8, 2008, Liu Xiaobo, who co-founded the Independent Chinese PEN Center in 2001, was detained and held incommunicado without charge for more than six months, after which he was charged with “inciting subversion of state power.” He was tried on December 23, 2009, in a hearing that lasted less than three hours and in which the defense was not permitted to present evidence. Two days later, on Christmas Day, Liu Xiaobo was convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison. The verdict named as subversive six phrases from six of his essays as well as Charter 08, the manifesto that was released the day after his detention and which called for democratic and human rights reforms. The Beijing High Court rejected his appeal on February 11, 2010. He is serving his sentence in Jinzhou Prison in Liaoning Province.
The following year, as you know, Liu Xiaobo was announced the winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. His wife, Liu Xia, was almost immediately put under house arrest. She has remained there since, and has scarcely been seen or heard from in more than three years. Guards remain outside her apartment at all times, and individuals who attempt to visit her have been detained. She is denied communication with the outside world via phone, Internet, and even post. Her brother, Liu Hui, was arrested, and in June, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison on trumped-up fraud charges, likely in an effort to intimidate the family.
Liu Xiaobo agreed to file for a retrial in October, during his short, monthly visit with his wife. The lawyers representing Liu have applied to the Jinzhou Prison to meet with Liu to discuss details of the retrial request, but so far the prison authorities have not approved it as they are pending “instructions” from higher authorities. Liu’s retrial and how it will proceed will represent an important test for China’s new leadership and proposed reforms.
As China continues its ascent as a global player, its leaders must understand that a fair legal and justice system that respects the inalienable human rights of its citizens is key to its internal stability.
We understand that there are a plethora of important issues that you will be discussing when you are in Beijing, but we hope that this will be one of them. Please continue to raise Liu Xiaobo’s case at every available opportunity, and demand that authorities end all forms of repression and intimidation of his family, including freeing Liu Xia from extralegal house arrest.
Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.
Executive Director, PEN American Center
Asia Director, Human Rights Watch
Deputy Executive Director, Amnesty International, USA