Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Liu Xia, widow of dissident Liu Xiaobo, allowed to leave China

Liu Xia, widow of dissident Liu Xiaobo, allowed to leave China

China has allowed the widow of the late Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Liu Xiaobo, to leave the country following almost eight years under de facto house arrest.

China on Tuesday allowed Liu Xia to fly to Berlin, ending an eight-year house arrest that drew global criticism and made the soft-spoken, chain-smoking 57-year-old poet with a shaven head a tragic icon known around the world.

Her friends said she left China on board a Finnair flight bound for Germany on Tuesday. He died last year from liver cancer while serving an 11-year prison sentence.

Through the years of detention, Liu has suffered from depression and a heart condition and both of her parents died.

"It's really wonderful that Liu Xia is finally able to leave China after suffering so much all these years".

"When I visited Xiaobo, she wouldn't get involved with our political discussions".

"My sister has left Beijing to fly to Europe".

The move comes a day after Chinese premier Li Keqiang met German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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"The timing of the release is certainly not coincidental with Beijing asking Europe to unite against the United States in the trade conflict, and in light of the upcoming EU-China summit in Beijing next week", she said.

Winnie King, a specialist in China-EU relations at the University of Bristol, said Germany had been quite consistent in its advocacy for human rights issues in comparison with China's other trading partners. "Now China has made use of an opportunity to do Germany a favour so as to strengthen the Sino-German relationship".

Liu Xiaobo died of liver cancer last July while under government custody, prompting new worldwide calls for Liu Xia's release.

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. "I hope that being in a free country will allow Liu Xia to heal her long-standing traumas and wounds". Occasionally, she could write to or call friends, reports said.

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.

Germany, which is also home to dissident artist Ai Weiwei, has been outspoken on rights in China. "But we still fear for Liu Hui, who is being kept in the country as a guarantee so that Liu Xia does not speak out overseas". Handed an 11-year jail sentence for fraud in 2013, Liu Hui was later released but remained monitored, according to friends of the family.

In May, Western diplomats tried to visit her in her home, but were turned away by security personnel, an official of one of the embassies involved told Reuters at the time.

PEN America's members and supporters, working in solidarity with writers and readers all over the world, have campaigned relentlessly for Liu Xia's freedom throughout her confinement through letters, postcards, petitions, live protests, social media campaigns, videos, the distribution of her poems, and readings of her work.

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