Liu Xiaobo is a 56 year old writer, intellectual and advocate of political reform in China who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.  He is currently in jail, having entered the fifth year of an eleven year sentence for 'inciting subversion of state power'. 

For more than two decades Liu Xiaobo persisted in peacefully advocating for greater human rights and political reform in China, knowing that each time he put his name to a new essay or circulated a new petition articulating these views he was running the risk of arrest and imprisonment.

In 1989 Liu Xiaobo left the safety of his position as a visiting scholar in Colombia University in order to return to Beijing and involve himself in the student protests taking place that year. After joining in a hunger strike with student leaders he later played a key role in persuading remaining students to peacefully leave Tiananmen Square as soldiers advanced with orders to clear the area.  On 6 June 1989 he was arrested for his role in the Tiananmen movement and spent nearly two years in prison.  He was also fired from his position as a professor in Beijing Normal University.

Unbowed by his time in prison, Liu Xiaobo continued to speak out and in 1996 was sentenced to three years re-education through labour for criticising China's one party political system.  It was while he was serving this sentence that he married photographer and intellectual Liu Xia, who today remains under strict house arrest and cut off from the outside world solely because of her association with Liu Xiaobo. 

Liu Xiaobo's second term in prison, combined with increased surveillance and harassment did little to dissuade him from continuing to highlight human rights abuses and call for political reform.  From 2003 to 2007 Liu Xiaobo served as president of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre.  On 8 December 2008 he was arrested for his role in drafting Charter 08 and on 25 December 2009 was sentenced to 11 years' imprisonment.  Liu Xiaobo is a human rights defender whose courage has been demonstrated by his willingness to insist on greater rights for others while putting himself at serious risk.  

Liu Xia, a painter and photographer, is wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights defender, Mr Liu Xiaobo. Shortly after her husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, Liu Xia was placed under strict house arrest at her home in Beijing and has been largely isolated from the outside world for over three years. No criminal charges have been brought against her.

On the morning of 3 December 2013, Zeng Jinyan posted on her blog three requests made to the Chinese government by Liu Xia. Zeng Jinyan has not disclosed how she received the information. These requests were as follows: (1) “I request the right to consult a doctor freely;” (2) “I request that Liu Xiaobo and I are allowed the right to read the correspondence we write to each other;” (3) “I request the right to work and receive an income.”

In recent weeks, there has been increased concern regarding the mental health of Liu Xia, who is reportedly suffering from depression. According to Zeng Jinyan, Liu Xia is not willing to see a police-appointed doctor for fear of being interned in a psychiatric hospital, a punishment sometimes used by the Chinese authorities to silence human rights defenders. Regarding her second request, Liu Xia and Liu Xiaobo have not been permitted to read the letters they send to each other.