From China Digital Space
In silent recitation,
I carve lines on my bones.
—Liu Xia, "Speechless"
Liu Xia is an avant-garde poet, photographer, and painter from Beijing. She was married to dissident and fellow poet Liu Xiaobo from 1996 until his death in 2017.
Liu Xia was born in 1961 in Beijing. In the 1980s, she worked for the Beijing Tax Bureau while embedding herself in the capital city's burgeoning literary scene. Her poetry was published in major Chinese journals until 1989, the year of China's military crackdown on pro-democracy protests, from which point onward it has reportedly been banned. Nevertheless, Liu quit her job at the tax bureau in 1993 to devote herself to her art.
Liu Xia met Liu Xiaobo at a literary gathering in the early 1980s. Both had first marriages that ended in divorce, Liu Xiaobo's in 1991. The two married in 1996 while Liu Xiaobo was serving a three-year sentence at a re-education through labor camp. Liu Xiaobo was released in 1999, but the couple was again separated in 2008, after Liu Xiaobo was detained for his participation in drafting Charter 08.
Though never officially charged with any crime, Liu Xia has been under house arrest and subject to surveillance since Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2010. Journalists and supporters have occasionally managed to visit her, finding her deeply depressed and in poor health. Liu Xia was last seen on July 15, 2017, in official photos with her family at Liu Xiaobo's funeral and burial at sea. Her attorney in the U.S. has filed a formal complaint to the United Nations condemning her "enforced disappearance."
Critics often note the inward focus of Liu Xia's work, even prior to her house arrest. She has previously avowed that she is "not politically involved," despite her devotion to Liu Xiaobo. In her years of intense isolation, she has continued to produce paintings and photographs. Dozens of her black-and-white photos were smuggled out of China one by one by French professor and friend Guy Sorman, later exhibited in 2012 as "The Silent Strength of Liu Xia." Many of these photos, taken between 1996 and 1999, feature Liu Xia's "ugly babies," dolls with anguished faces bound up in her Beijing apartment or looking out to sea. Her 2014 "Lonely Planet" series, photos of tin foil sculptures emerging from stark blackness, appear in her latest book, Accompanying Liu Xiaobo.
Liu Xia at CDT
- From Merkel to Magnitsky: Pressuring China on Rights 25 July 2018, by Samuel Wade
- Chinese Pressure On Liu Xiaobo Death Anniversary 14 July 2018, by Samuel Wade
- Liu Xia Leaves China After Years of House Arrest 11 July 2018, by Samuel Wade
- A Call for Attention to Chinese Repression 6 July 2018, by Samuel Wade
- Fresh Wave of International Support for Liu Xia 17 May 2018, by zctph48