Liu Xia, widow of dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, says she is “ready to die at home” in protest after being kept under house arrest for nearly eight years, according to her friend and exiled Chinese writer Liao Yiwu.
Liao, who lives in Berlin, revealed Liu Xia’s despair at being unable to leave China in an open letter published on Wednesday that gave details of a phone call between Liao and Liu, and behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts to secure Liu’s release.
“There is nothing I fear now. If I can’t leave, I’ll just die at home. Xiaobo has already left, there is nothing in this world for me. Dying is easier than living – there is nothing simpler for me than to protest with death,” Liao quoted Liu as saying during the phone conversation on Monday.
The exiled writer said he was shocked by Liu’s reaction, and it prompted him to release a seven-minute recording of an earlier conversation he had with Liu, with her consent.
“German Chancellor [Angela] Merkel is coming [to China] soon. We want as many organisations and individuals as possible to hear Liu Xia’s own voice,” Liao said.
In the audio clip of that call on April 8, Liu is emotional and can be heard crying. She tells Liao she is ready to leave China and already has her bags packed. “You can record this now: I’m so angry that I’m ready to die here … If I’m dead, it’ll all be done with,” Liu tells Liao.
Liu, a 57-year-old poet, painter and photographer, has been under house arrest since 2010, but has never been charged with any offence by the Chinese authorities. Overseas appeals for her release peaked in July last year after her husband died of liver cancer in custody.
Last week, German ambassador to China Michael Clauss and the US renewed calls for Liu to be released from house arrest and allowed to travel overseas, as hopes fade that she will be able to leave.
In his letter, Liao also claimed that the German foreign ministry had a plan to secretly collect Liu and take her to an airport to leave the country, and that it had also made arrangements for her treatment and recovery in Germany.
A German foreign ministry source on Thursday did not confirm Liao’s claims but said it had been discussing Liu’s case with the Chinese government and would continue to do so.
“According to the information available to us, Liu Xia has not been accused of any crime. She should be allowed to travel, also for humanitarian considerations. Should she choose to come to Germany, Liu Xia would be welcome here,” the source said.
Novelist and Nobel laureate Herta Mueller and other supporters had also agreed to provide accommodation for Liu at Literature House in Berlin, according to Liao, while an artist scholarship and medical treatment was lined up “in a low-key manner”.
“We have all been patiently and quietly waiting … for this special patient,” Liao wrote.
“Liu Xia is devastated and the clinical depression she has suffered from for years is back worse than ever, driving her to the brink of mental collapse.”
According to her friends, after Liu Xiaobo’s funeral in July last year, state security police repeatedly promised Liu Xia and her brother Liu Hui that they would be able to leave China, but there has not been any progress since.
Prominent dissident Hu Jia, who lives under tight surveillance in Beijing, said Liu Xia’s despair was a result of these empty promises, and he called on Merkel to visit Liu during her expected China trip.
“Every day in April has been agonising for Liu Xia as she awaits a verdict on her fate. Everyone has kept quiet while they hope for a positive outcome, only to find out they have all been fooled,” Hu said.
“I expect Merkel will gently raise the plight of Liu Xia again and appeal for her to be treated abroad, without mentioning Liu Xiaobo,” he said.
Liu Xiaobo died aged 61 in a Liaoning hospital on July 13, becoming the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in custody since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky in 1938. He was awarded the prize in 2010 while in jail and was represented by an empty chair at the ceremony in Oslo.
The human rights activist was jailed for 11 years in 2009 on subversion charges after co-authoring a petition known as Charter 08 calling for sweeping political reforms in China.
Liu Xia’s friends have said she has been cut off from the outside world since her husband’s death, and is taking medication for depression.