Published: Thu, July 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Widow of Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo has left China: friend

Widow of Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo has left China: friend

It's been nearly a year since Nobel peace prize victor, writer, and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo passed away of liver cancer in custody in China, with Beijing rejecting pleas for the dissident to be allowed to travel overseas for treatment.

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.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert welcomed the decision to release Liu "from house arrest" and allow her to leave China "as she long wished".

"I hope Liu Xia can find some personal peace and restore her health in Germany", said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, who called her fate in recent years "nothing short of tragic".

She landed at Berlin's Tegel airport on Tuesday and was taken away by auto soon after she got off the plane.

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

In a letter published a year ago, Liu Xia wrote to a friend that she was "going mad" in her isolation, according to the AFP news agency.

My sister left Beijing to fly to Europe at noon, to start her new life.

Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo, has left China and is on a plane out of the country.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is in Germany this week.

"While Liu Xia is free, our work is not complete", he said.

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

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China's foreign ministry confirmed on Tuesday that Liu Xia had left for health reasons and that she had gone to Germany to "treat her illness according to her wishes".

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.

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 liberalisation.

Liu was awarded the Nobel on October 8, 2010. State security assigned guards around-the-clock outside Liu's Beijing home and restricted her access to the internet and the outside world, allowing her only occasional phone calls with a small circle of friends. She was eventually admitted to hospital the following month, where she was treated for a heart condition.

Speaking to AFP before her departure, close friend Ye Du said Liu was suffering from "very severe" depression, adding she would "sometimes faint" and was taking medicine to sleep. "It would be easier to die than to live". "Using death to defy could not be any simpler for me".

Human rights groups are cautiously celebrating Liu Xia's departure from China on Tuesday, as they urge the worldwide community to keep in mind the abuses suffered by her and her late husband, Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo.

"Now, the harassment of Liu Xia's family who remain in China must end too".

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

Germany has been pushing China to let Liu leave following the death of her husband on July 13, 2017, from liver cancer at the age of 61 while in custody, Western diplomats have said. She was shown at his closely staged funeral dressed in black and wearing dark sunglasses as she clutched a photograph of her husband. The first, Carl von Ossietzky, died of tuberculosis in Germany in 1938 while jailed for opposing Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime.

The pair married in 1996 while Liu Xiaobo was serving a three-year sentence at a so-called "re-education through labor" camp in Dalian, China, the charity said.

"She was just standing there alone, smoking a cigarette", Hu said.

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