Published: Tue, July 10, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Widow of Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo leaves China for Berlin


The release of Liu Xia, who was never charged with any crime, results from years of campaigning by Western governments and activists and comes just days before the one-year anniversary Friday of Liu Xiaobo's death.

The Chinese government has confirmed the widow of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has left China for Germany, saying Liu Xia is seeking medical treatment.

However, some anxious she may not feel safe to speak about her life in China over the past decade, since her brother still lives in Beijing.

Speaking to AFP news agency before her departure, close friend Ye Du said Liu was suffering from "very severe" depression, adding she would "sometimes faint" and was taking medicine to sleep. He thanked everyone who had cared for and helped her over the years. "She is flying to Europe to start her life anew", he said.

Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo, has left China and is on a plane out of the country. The German government negotiated Liu Xia's release, whose health significantly deteriorated during almost eight years of house arrest. In 2009, China sentenced Liu Xiaobo to 11 years in prison on a charge of inciting subversion after he helped write Charter 08, a manifesto calling for political and economic liberalization.

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.

While precise details of Liu's flight out of China are unknown, the only Finnair flight that left Beijing Capital International Airport bound for Berlin on Tuesday morning was Flight AY86, which took off at 10.55am, according to the airport's website. "I hope that being in a free country will allow Liu Xia to heal her long-standing traumas and wounds".

Liu Xia was held under illegal house arrest since Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. She was closely monitored by state security agents and could only be reached by her closest friends by phone in limited circumstances. In a May visit to Beijing, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed the Chinese leadership on its human rights record and raised Liu Xia's case directly with China's leader Xi Jinping.

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In May, several foreign diplomats who tried to visit her at her apartment amid concerns over her health were denied access.

Johnny Lau, a political commentator in Hong Kong, said he believed the authorities had let Ms Liu go to avoid her case sparking a "surge" of pressure on China around the July 13 anniversary of Liu Xiaobo's death.

Hua Chunying, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, said that Liu's travel to Germany for medical treatment was "of her own free will".

But concerns remain about her brother Liu Hui, who is still in Beijing.

It's also a big win for Germany, one of the few countries allowed to send a doctor to China previous year to examine Liu Xiaobo.

Liu Xiaobo was only the second Nobel Peace Prize victor to die in police custody, and human rights group say that shows the Communist Party's increasingly hard line.

China claimed that Liu Xia's freedom of movement was not impeded.

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