Liu Xia, widow of dissident, leaves China for Germany, friend says

Albert Ho

Albert Ho

After his death, human rights activists, as well as several US lawmakers, expressed deep concern for Liu Xia's fate and livelihood and called on the Chinese government to release her from house arrest, which she had been confined and isolated for eight years. "I'm grateful for all those who cared about and helped her over the years". I hope that our parents and my brother-in-law [Liu Xiaobo] could rest in peace now and keep blessing her [from heaven].

Efforts to secure Liu Xia's departure came amid growing concern over her health and state of mind, after Liao Yiwu, a dissident and friend living in Germany, released details of a telephone conversation in April in which an anguished Liu Xia said she was losing hope of leaving.

Shortly after the Nobel announcement, Liu, 57, was placed under effective house arrest, where she remained under heavy surveillance and control until her stunning release on Tuesday.

"The release of Liu Xia shows that when concerned governments push hard enough, Beijing will back down", Richardson said. The German government negotiated Liu Xia's release, whose health significantly deteriorated during almost eight years of house arrest. The country has been raising human rights issues and the situation of Liu Xia on multiple occasions with China, a major trade partner and investor.

Ms Hua said she "could not see any link" between Liu Xia's departure and the high-level Chinese visit.

News of her release came just a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met in Berlin, stressing their shared commitment to free trade in what some observers saw as a message to U.S. President Donald Trump.

Liu Xiaobo, a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, died last year while serving an 11-year jail sentence for "subversion", making him the first Nobel laureate to die in custody since the era of Nazi Germany.

Days after the Nobel Committee awarded Liu Xiaobo the Peace prize; Chinese authorities put Liu Xia also under house arrest. As soon as Liu Xia returned home from visiting her husband in prison that month, she was confined in her fifth-floor apartment in Beijing and denied access to a phone and the internet. Liu Xiaobo was guilty of drafting the Charter 08 manifesto (read in full), which calls for democracy, freedom of expression, and human rights in China.

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying confirmed Liu Xia's departure on Tuesday, telling a press briefing that the widow left for Germany of her own accord to receive treatment.

Her departure for Germany also came as Chinese premier Li Keqiang wrapped up an official visit to Germany, and after United Nations human rights experts had voiced concerns for her mental health.

Fellow writers and rights activists welcomed the news of her release on social media on. During his long struggle for political reform, Liu Xia was always there to provide moral support to her husband.

China sentenced Liu Xiaobo in December 2009 to 11 years in prison. The first anniversary of Liu Xiaobo's death is Friday.

Despite a diagnosis of late stage liver cancer and calls from the global community to release him for urgent medical treatment, Liu Xiaobo died at the age of 61 while still imprisoned on July 13, 2017.

"It's really wonderful that Liu Xia is finally able to leave China after suffering so much all these years. It would be easier to die than to live".

While news and information about the couple are strictly censored in mainland China, people in Hong Kong took to Facebook to send their good wishes to Liu Xia. "Nothing would be simpler for me than dying in defiance". The last time a famous political prisoner was permitted to leave China was in 2012. Several human rights defenders have either died in detention or shortly after being released.

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