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Nobel widow Liu Xia leaves China after 8 years' house arrest

11 July 2018

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.

But now, Liu Xia is reported to have been allowed to leave China.

"I hope she can improve her health condition and adjust her mood ... after leaving here, and then gradually start her new life."

Her departure, following a year of pressure on Beijing from activists and rights groups, comes at the end of a visit to Germany by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, during which the two countries signed commercial deals worth more than $30 billion US.

Friends said she had taken a Finnair flight to Berlin via Helsinki, a move that came just days before the first anniversary of her husband's death from liver cancer. Wu said he spoke to Liu Xia's older brother, Liu Tong. "I hope that being in a free country will allow Liu Xia to heal her long-standing traumas and wounds".

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.

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

- "Very severe" depression - Speaking to AFP before her departure, close friend Ye Du told AFP that Liu was suffering from "very severe" depression, adding that she would "sometimes faint".

Liu Xia's release and her departure from the country show that sustained worldwide pressure can bring about positive human rights developments in China, Human Rights Watch said. The last time China let a high-profile political prisoner leave was in 2012, when blind activist Chen Guangcheng was allowed to fly to NY after escaping from house arrest and hiding for six days in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Su Yutong, a family friend based in Germany, also confirmed her departure. "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".

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a news conference that Liu Xia had gone to Germany to seek medical treatment in accordance with her wishes.

China has previously criticized calls by Western governments for Liu's release, saying that foreign countries were making "improper remarks" over what Beijing sees as a domestic affair.

Liu Xia was never charged but was largely confined to her Beijing home.

"Liu Xia never gave up on her wrongfully imprisoned late husband, and for this she was cruelly punished", said Patrick Poon, China Researcher at Amnesty International, in response to the news Tuesday. In a phone recording posted on the internet in May, Liu Xia was heard sobbing without talking for much of the time, apparently over her frustration with the processing of her application to leave China.

Nobel widow Liu Xia leaves China after 8 years' house arrest