Rights groups cautiously hail Liu Xia departure

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

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. Her brother in Beijing seemed to confirm the news on WeChat.

A source close to Western diplomats told the Post that Li raised the issue of Liu Xia during his meeting with Merkel. According to AP, Liu Xia's brother, Liu Hui, sent his thanks to his sister's supporters via social media.

Officials have also insisted that Liu Xia was free to move around - a clear contradiction of the reality on the ground, according to her friends and people who encountered guards blocking their attempts to visit her at her home in Beijing.

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.

Liu Xia, the widow of a Chinese dissident and Nobel peace laureate, left Beijing this morning for Berlin, ending almost eight years of house arrest in one of the most high-profile global rights cases.

Protesters carrying photos of Chinese dissident Liu Xia demonstrate near a flag raising ceremony for China's National Day in Hong Kong, China October 1, 2016.

Her husband Liu Xiaobo, a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, died last year while serving an 11-year jail sentence for "subversion", the first Nobel laureate to die in custody since the Nazi era.

Liu Xiaobo died aged 61 in hospital on July 13 a year ago. He was a writer, critic and activist who called for political reforms and an end to one-party rule in China.

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As President Xi Jinping's leadership has pledged to advance the rule of law in the country, it apparently chose to release her ahead of the first anniversary of her husband's death.

Chinese authorities put her under house arrest in 2010, days after the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded her imprisoned husband the Peace Prize, infuriating the Chinese government. Apart from Liu Xia, everyone is also very anxious about [detained human rights lawyer] Wang Quanzhang. Few are allowed to visit her and plainclothes police patrol around her Beijing apartment.

News outlets reported she was constantly monitored and unable to leave her house on her own.

"There are very strong elements within China who do not want to acquiesce to foreign pressures, but the problem is that they can not keep her under house arrest... in the long term because they will face worldwide condemnation, and they do not have an explanation, so it's a very tricky hot potato..."

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

But concerns remain about her brother Liu Hui, who is still in Beijing.

Liu Xia poses with a photo of her and her husband during an interview at her home in Beijing on December 6, 2012. Liu Xiaobo died in prison.

Liu Xia, the wife of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, talks to the media in Beijing February 11, 2010.

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