Nobel widow Liu Xia leaves China after 8 years' house arrest

Albert Ho

Liu Xia has never been charged with any crime but said in May she was ready to die in protest at her continued detention.

The Chinese government has released Liu Xia, the widow of world-renowned poet and political prisoner Liu Xiaobo, from house arrest after renewed global pressure from human rights activists.

"Liu Xia is finally fulfilling Liu Xiaobo's wishes and escaping from the prison that is China", author Ma Jian said via his Twitter account.

She was reunited with Liu Xiaobo in late June a year ago at a Shenyang hospital after the pro-democracy campaigner was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and released from jail on medical parole.

Analysts however pointed to the forthcoming anniversary of her husband's death as a reason for the timing. It wasn't a dream wedding by any means. Chinese officials told reporters Liu Xia was free to do what she wished, but authorities banned Western diplomats from visiting her.

China reported today (July 10) that she departed Beijing on a Finnair flight to Berlin late Monday night, citing unnamed sources. She sent him books, wrote letters and postcards. She was only allowed out to visit her husband and parents, and for escorted trips to buy groceries.

Several well-known human rights activists and worldwide humanitarian organizations have condemned the Chinese government's treatment of Liu Xia.

But this does not herald an improvement in human rights, this diplomat said. There were demands for an independent judiciary, freedom of political association and an end to the one-party system.

China sentenced Liu Xiaobo in December 2009 to 11 years' imprisonment on charges of inciting subversion of state power after he helped write a manifesto calling for political and economic liberalization.

A petite woman with a shaved head and glasses, Liu Xia has been seen as "the most important link" between Liu Xiaobo and the outside world.

On Chinese social media, some are expressing their happiness for her-obliquely, of course, so as to avoid censorship.

"Liu Xia has been suffering from depression and under tight surveillance for so many years", he said.

Liu's late husband, Liu Xiaobo was a renowned writer and activist.

If the reports that she's been released to Germany are true, it would mark an end to almost a decade of unofficial detention for Liu Xia-who has been kept under strict state surveillance since Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2010.

Authorities had assigned guards around-the-clock outside Liu's Beijing home and restricted her access to Internet and the outside world, allowing her only occasional phone calls with a small circle of friends.

Chinese authorities, however, had consistently maintained Liu was free and criticized Western governments for making "improper remarks" over what Beijing sees as a domestic affair.

"I'm in a sea of joy", said veteran activist "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung as he drank a toast to Liu Xiaobo.

Liu Xia's departure was "wonderful news" but harassment of her family remained a risk to her freedom to criticise China, Amnesty International's China researcher Patrick Poon said.

China and Germany on July 9 agreed to "promote bilateral cooperation in economy, trade and investment, jointly safeguard free trade and an global market based on fair and recognized rules and relax market access", said Xinhua. Xiaobo is gone, and there's nothing for me now. "It would be easier to die than to live".

Washington Post: "She will start a new life and is grateful for all the people who have cared for her and helped her", her brother Liu Hui posted on WeChat on Tuesday morning.

He was later released from prison in 2015, but on strict bail conditions, and is being held as a "hostage", according to Hu Jia, a Chinese activist.

While there was no immediate comment from its embassy, Germany had been urging China to allow Mrs Liu to leave.

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