Widow of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo leaves China

Clay Curtis
July 12, 2018

USA and German officials have pushed hard for Liu Xia's release, with Trump and Merkel separately raising the issue privately several times to the Chinese president, according to knowledgeable sources.

China's foreign ministry has confirmed that Liu has left the country to seek medical treatment in Germany. Chinese officials told reporters Liu Xia was free to do what she wished, but authorities banned Western diplomats from visiting her.

Friends said she had taken a Finnair flight to Berlin via Helsinki, a move that came just days before the first anniversary of her husband's death from liver cancer.

After Liu Xiaobo's funeral in July a year ago, his widow did not return to her home in Beijing until September, as calls grew from the global community and supporters for her release.

Amnesty International reported that Liu told a friend in Germany in April, "If I can't leave, I'll die in my home".

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

Liu Xiaobo's prison sentence turned out to be for life.

Liu Xiaobo was a writer and a prominent voice during the democratic movement which led to the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. Handed an 11-year jail sentence for fraud in 2013, Liu Hui was later released but remained monitored, according to friends of the family.

"It is wonderful news that Liu Xia is finally free and that her persecution and illegal detention at the hands of the Chinese authorities has come to an end, almost one year since Liu Xiaobo's untimely and undignified death".

Leaked audio clips earlier this year showed her to have been in a highly distressed and desperate state of mind prior to her release.

In Hong Kong, pro-democracy activists celebrated at a memorial to Liu Xiaobo adorned with the couple's pictures.

"Liu Xia has been kept isolated for so many years", Mr Wu said. "I'm grateful for all those who cared about and helped her over the years. All of those disappeared lawyers and authors are still without their freedom".

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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.

"We continue to call on the Chinese government to release all prisoners of conscience, and to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all individuals", the department said in a statement. The last time China let a high-profile political prisoner leave was in 2012, when blind activist Chen Guangcheng was allowed to fly to NY after escaping from house arrest and hiding for six days in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

On a rainy night in the summer of 2012, Hu stood outside Liu's apartment and aimed a laser pointer at the window of her study.

"Liu Xia is finally free and today the world celebrates her enjoyment of the liberties that were rightfully hers all along", he said.

The reports of Liu Xia's departure come as Li wraps up a two-day visit to Germany.

It has been seeking to bolster its ties with the European Union amid a trade war with the United States.

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

But he said the authorities still control the fate of Liu Hui, which will likely act as a restraint on what she can do or say in Germany. "Pressure is still needed so that Chinese authorities won't harass Liu Xia's family members in China".

Liu's new-found freedom was broadly welcomed by worldwide rights groups and the writers' organization PEN, which tweeted that it was "jubilant" at the news.

Liu Xia had never been charged with a crime.

This however does not herald an improvement in human rights, this diplomat said, adding that on the contrary, "we can see it is getting worse".

Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 8, 2010. "The German government deserves credit for its sustained pressure and hard work to gain Liu Xia's release", she said.

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