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Author Margaret Atwood, others seek late dissident's wife's release

Beijing, Nov 3 (IANS) More than 50 prominent international authors have written to Chinese President Xi Jinping urging him to free Liu Xia, the wife of deceased activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo.

The letter, signed by Margaret Atwood, Chimamanda Adichie, Philip Roth, Tom Stoppard and George Saunders, appealed to Xi’s “conscience” and “sense of compassion” to release Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since 2010 despite never being accused of any crime, the Guardian reported on Friday.

Liu Xia was last seen publicly on July 15 in photos of the memorial service for the dissident, who died of liver cancer while in custody two days earlier.

In a video posted to YouTube in July she said: “I am outside recuperating, everyone please grant me time to mourn, time for my heart to heal and one day I will be able to face you all in a healthy state”.

There was speculation that she made the comments under duress.

The joint letter by the authors stated: “We urge you to lift all remaining restrictions against Liu Xia, and to ensure her freedom of speech, her freedom to meet with others, and her freedom to travel.”

The letter decried her “de facto incommunicado detention” and cited China’s own Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in appealing for Liu Xia’s release.

The letter was organised by PEN America, a group that advocates freedom of expression around the world.

It was also signed by writers Teju Cole, Louise Erdrich, Michael Chabon, Chang-rae Lee and Stephen Sondheim. The group also opened the letter to signatures from the public.

“On his upcoming visit to Beijing, we hope President (Donald) Trump will voice the US’ concern about the inhumane and unjustifiable detention of a poet who has been accused of no crime,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America.

Trump will visit Beijing from November 8 to 9 but experts doubt he will raise the case of one of China’s most prominent political prisoners, the report said.

Liu Xia’s late husband who was one of China’s foremost pro-democracy campaigners died at 61. He was serving an 11 year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power”.

In 2010, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his activism in favour of democracy in China. After the dissident’s death, Liu Xia was almost immediately cut off from the outside world, confined to her apartment in Beijing.

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