Liu Xia, wife of late Nobel Peace Prize winner, leaves China

That was the last time she left home as a free woman. However, after eight years under illegal house arrest her health is a cause for genuine concern.

She was never charged with an offence, but was kept guarded and largely isolated for more than seven years in the apartment she once shared with her husband.

On the contrary, "we can see it is getting worse".

“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 Xiaobos untimely and undignified death.

Liu Xia's brother, Liu Hui, wrote on a social media site: "Sister has already left Beijing for Europe at noon to start her new life".

Photographers caught up with her in Helsinki, where she was in transit, and she grinned widely for the cameras spreading her arms - a stark contrast from the few images of her that have surfaced over the past few years in China.

Johnny Lau, a political commentator in Hong Kong, said he believed the authorities had let Liu Xia go to avoid her case sparking a "surge" of pressure on China around the July 13 anniversary of Liu Xiaobo's death.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets regularly with dissidents during visits to China and had raised Liu Xia's case with Chinese officials, including during a visit in May, people familiar with the matter said.

After the Lunar New Year visit and the promise that she could soon be on a plane, Liu Xia began to despair when nothing had happened by April.

Liu Xia remained under house arrest for eight years.

Liu Xia is an accomplished artist and poet who reluctantly followed her husband into politics two decades ago.

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.

Liu was awarded the Nobel on October 8, 2010.


Guards ate and slept outside her door, driving away well-wishers, activists, journalists and diplomats - a slow-burning ordeal worse than death, she said in a rare recording that emerged in May.

Exiled dissident Wu'er Kaixi, speaking in Taipei, told AFP he was "glad" Liu Xia could leave China but also voiced concerns about her brother.

A petite woman with a shaved head and glasses, Liu Xia has been seen as "the most important link" between Liu Xiaobo and the outside world.

"It's easier to die than live. Using death to defy could not be any simpler for me".

The news of her release was celebrated by China's beleaguered community of activists, who have been at the centre of an expansive crackdown on civil society, rights lawyers and other independent groups the administration of President Xi Jinping has deemed a threat to the ruling Communist Party's grip on power.

Rights groups and Western nations had been raising pressure on Beijing over Liu Xia in recent months, as fears grew among rights groups that she might never be able to leave and live overseas, a wish she had made clear.

Mr Ye said he was informed of Ms Liu's departure by her older brother.

Officials at the German embassy in Beijing did not confirm the news when contacted by Reuters and referred questions to the German Foreign Office in Berlin. "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". "China hopes to team up with Germany", he said.

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

Liu Xiaobo, a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, died last year while serving an 11-year jail sentence for "subversion", making him the first Nobel laureate to die in custody since the era of Nazi Germany. She was shown at his closely staged funeral dressed in black and wearing dark sunglasses as she clutched a photograph of her husband.

The Chinese government has confirmed the widow of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has left China for Germany, saying Liu Xia is seeking medical treatment.

Frances Eve, a researcher for Chinese Human Rights Defenders, said Liu Xia's release was likely meant to mute criticism around the anniversary of Liu's death. If I can't leave, I'll just die at home.

He said China's constitution protected human rights.

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