Chinese poet Liu Xia successfully called a friend on Wednesday night despite being under house arrest and forbidden from contacting the outside world. The 55-year-old, who is also the wife of dissident Liu Xiaobo, said she was unwell.

Liu Xiaobo was arrested after drafting Charter 08 – a manifesto calling for various freedoms in China. He was sentenced to 11 years behind bars for “inciting subversion of state power.” Since he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, Liu Xia has been placed under house arrest without charge. She has also been prevented from leaving her Beijing residence or contacting the outside world.

Liu Xia (right) and her husband Liu Xiaobo. File photo: HKFP/Tom Grundy.

“Just received a call from Liu Xia. I’m extremely surprised, it’s the first time in years,” wrote Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser on Twitter. “I asked her if she was doing well, she said she was unwell.”

Liu suffers from long-term insomnia. In 2014 she was also reported to have had heart problems, for which she was allowed to occasionally visit the hospital.

Woeser said she saw pictures of Liu eating with friends, and thought that her health had improved. “A sick person has to pretend she’s well,” said Liu.

Later, RTHK confirmed that the conversation had taken place.

Liu Xiaobo.

Her brother Liu Hui was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment on fraud charges in 2013, although he has since been released on medical parole.

Tsering said on Wednesday that Liu Xia had tried to call her twice previously, but the calls were both cut off immediately upon connecting.

“[Liu] said ‘I am drunk, and am just testing to see if my telephone works, and see who I can talk to’.”

Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.