Wednesday, 18 July, 2018

Liu Xia, wife of late China dissident Liu Xiaobo, left for Berlin

Widow of Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo has left China Dissident Liu Xiaobo's widow 'allowed to leave China'
Deanna Wagner | 11 July, 2018, 12:01

Liu Xia, widow of the Chinese dissident and Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, arrived in Helsinki this lunchtime en route to Berlin, ending almost eight years of house arrest in one of the most prominent worldwide human rights cases.

But now, Liu Xia is reported to have been allowed to leave China.

"I wish Ms. Liu Xia well, and that she will be safe from now on", wrote a commenter on Facebook.

Concerns for her safety surged in May, after a conversation between Liu Xia and her friend, exiled Chinese writer Liao Yiwu, surfaced on the Internet. We commend the leadership of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government for their role in demanding her freedom.

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

Chinese officials put Liu Xia under house arrest days after the Nobel Committee awarded Liu Xiaobo the Peace Prize in 2010.

In May, dozens of the world's leading writers and artists, from Michael Chabon to Paul Auster and Khaled Hosseini, called on China to release her to seek medical treatment overseas.

Mr Liu, a writer and human rights activist, was given the award for his "long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China". Her brother, Liu Hui, posted on WeChat that his sister had flown to Europe to "start her new life". Liu Hui was prosecuted in 2013 on questionable fraud charges, though later released on bail.

"She was not part of our group of dissidents", Hu Jia, a Beijing-based activist and friend of Liu Xiaobo, told AFP.

Liu Hui is in China.

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Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since 2010, left China to receive "medical treatment according to her own will", foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

The Chinese government has criticized calls by Western governments for Liu's release, saying that foreign countries were making "improper remarks" over local issues.

Merkel has spoken out frequently on Chinese human rights abuses and is believed to have pushed for Liu's release during her May visit to Beijing, where she met the wives of detained human rights lawyers.

In an emotional phone call with her friend Liao recently, Liu said, "they should add a line to the constitution: "Loving Liu Xiaobo is a serious crime - it's a life sentence".

"I'm so excited, I'm so excited, I don't know what to say", the Chinese poet and painter told AFP over the telephone that October. "It's easier to die than live". "Nothing would be simpler for me than dying in defiance".

"Liu Xia never gave up on her wrongfully imprisoned late husband, and for this she was cruelly punished".

Mr Liu died of liver cancer last July while under government custody, prompting fresh worldwide calls for his wife's release. Her situation drove the artist and poet into depression and resulted in criticism of China's human rights record.

Her husband was only the second Nobel Peace Prize victor to die in police custody, a fact pointed to by human rights groups as an indication of the ruling party's increasingly hard line against its critics. He died while serving a prison sentence for "inciting subversion".

Last summer before Liu Xiaobo's death, 154 Nobel Laureates signed a letter sent to the Chinese President Xi Jinping calling for the release of Liu Xia and her husband.

Eve said the government sought to "make it seem as though it is a country ruled according to law when everything about her case has shown demonstrably that it is not". United Nations human rights experts had called on China to allow her to seek treatment for her worsening health.