Liu Xia was never charged but was largely confined to her Beijing home.
China is expected to use her brother as a "hostage" to make Liu Xia shy away from criticizing the Chinese government or the ruling Communist Party overseas, some foreign affairs experts say. Some other friends told DW that Liu Xia is headed to Berlin. Su Yutong, a family friend based in Germany, also confirmed her departure.
She left China on Tuesday for Berlin, Germany, her brother Liu Hui said in a message to friends shared with CNN. "I am thankful to all of the people who have cared about her and helped her all these years".
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.
As Liu Xia got off a plane in transit at the airport in Helsinki on Tuesday, she spread her arms and grinned widely at a waiting photographer. Liu Xiaobo died of liver cancer while serving an 11-year sentence after being found guilty of "subversion" against the state. "I hope that being in a free country will allow Liu Xia to heal her long-standing traumas and wounds".
Some have expressed fears that authorities are using him as a "hostage" to ensure that Liu Xia will not say anything to displease the Chinese government while she is overseas. Few are allowed to visit her and plainclothes police patrol around her Beijing apartment.
An accomplished artist and poet, Liu told Associated Press reporters during an unexpected visit to her home in 2012 that she had anticipated China would punish her for her husband's Nobel award but she had not expected to be kept under "Kafkaesque" house arrest.
And 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.
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.
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.
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.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said Liu left for Germany to seek "medical treatment on her own accord". Liu Hui was previously sentenced to 11 years for so-called fraud, and used to pressure Liu Xia to stop speaking out about Liu Xiaobo, he was released on medical parole, but his sentence could be carried out at any time...
"Liu Xia has been suffering from depression and under tight surveillance for so many years", he said.
Liu Xia, the wife of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, talks to the media in Beijing February 11, 2010.
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