China's Nobel winner's widow Liu Xia leaves Beijing for Germany

Frederick Owens
July 12, 2018

China's foreign ministry on Tuesday said that Liu Xia, widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winner Liu Xiaobo, traveled to Germany for medical treatment in accordance with her will.

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.

USA -based dissident Yang Jianli tweeted that "Liu Xia has found her freedom among the clouds, tens of thousands of feet up in the sky".

Two separate sources close to Liu Xia said she had been pressing to leave China since previous year, but only with her brother, after the authorities indicated they might allow her to go. China's deteriorating rights record is also being felt beyond its borders as it seeks to undermine worldwide human rights institutions. Her forced solitude was an emblem of Chinese cruelty toward a wife whose husband was ripped away from her for the crime of expressing his views, and then-nearly exactly a year ago-allowed to die in prison while denied access to potentially lifesaving medical treatment overseas.

Liu Xiaobo died of liver cancer last July while under government custody, prompting renewed calls for Liu Xia's release. She has discussed Liu Xia's case with Chinese officials. The country has been raising human rights issues and the situation of Liu Xia on multiple occasions with China, a major trade partner and investor.

When her democracy activist husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, Liu Xia was elated. Handed an 11-year jail sentence for fraud in 2013, Liu Hui was later released but remained monitored, according to friends of the family.

Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, free from house arrest after eight years, has emerged from a plane visibly overjoyed at an airport in Helsinki, Finland.

"We hope Liu Xia's release signals another stage in China, that the treatment of dissidents will be improved", Leung told AFP, but added he was anxious about her younger brother Liu Hui who could be held "hostage" while he remained in China.

In April, Liu Xia said she was "prepared to die" under house arrest, during a telephone conversation with her friend Liao Yiwu, an exiled writer.

"Liu Xia might not be able to speak much for fear of her brother's safety", Poon said.

"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.

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"Liu Xia was never a political person, and yet, for nearly eight years enormous misery was heaped upon her by Chinese authorities for the crime of merely having married her husband", Genser said in a statement Tuesday.

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.

Liu Xia, 57, had gone to "start her new life" in Europe, her younger brother, Liu Hui, said on his WeChat account, according to a screenshot of the message shown to Reuters by a friend who declined to be identified.

China had repeatedly said Liu Xia was free and accorded all rights guaranteed to her by law.

"My sister left Beijing midday today".

In a rare case of a top Chinese official taking questions about a sensitive matter, Premier Li Keqiang was asked about Liu's case during a briefing as part of a May visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The last time a famous political prisoner was permitted to leave China was in 2012.

Liu Hui is in China.

Western diplomats reportedly tried to visit Mrs Liu at her Beijing flat in May but were refused entry.

"It's easier to die than live".

And Sophie Richardson, China director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), expressed "relief" at the news. "Nothing would be simpler for me than dying in defiance".

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