Widow of Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo 'leaves China'

Liu Xia

The widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning political dissident Liu Xiaobo has left China for Germany in news welcomed by rights groups who had long pressed for her release from what was effectively house arrest.

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. "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".

However, Poon voiced concern for Liu Xia's brother Liu Hui who is still in China and said she "might not be able to speak much for fear of her brother's safety". Concerns for her health mounted after she was heard in an April audio recording saying that she was "prepared to die" under house arrest following the loss of her husband.

"If I can't leave, I'll die in my home", Liu Xia had said during a recent phone call with her close friend Liao Yiwu, a writer who documented their conversation in an essay published in May.

The primary doctor responsible for Liu Xiaobo's treatment said at a press conference late Thursday that in the activist's final moments, he told his wife to "live well". Xiaobo has already left, there is nothing in this world for me.

At around 11 am on July 10 in Beijing, Liu Xia was allowed to board a Finnair plane leaving China for Germany, BBC Chinese reported.

China has been seeking to bolster its ties with the European Union amid a trade war with the United States. He returned from an academic job in the United States to take part in the 1989 demonstrations in Tiananmen Square and was arrested in the aftermath of the massacre there - the first of several stints in Chinese jail cells. "China hopes to team up with Germany", Mr Lau said. "Now China has made use of an opportunity to do Germany a favour so as to strengthen the Sino-German relationship".

Chinese authorities have insisted Liu Xia, who has not been formally charged of any crime, has been free to move as she wishes.

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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.

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".

"This is not a diplomatic issue", she said.

Chinese authorities put Liu under house arrest in 2010, days after the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded her imprisoned husband, Liu Xiaobo, the Peace Prize, infuriating the Chinese government.

Germany, which is also home to dissident artist Ai Weiwei, has been outspoken on rights in China. Liu Xiaobo died in prison.

Ms Liu's departure was "wonderful news" but harassment of her family remained a risk to her freedom to criticise China, Amnesty International's China researcher Patrick Poon said. "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". Liu Hui was prosecuted in 2013 on questionable fraud charges, though later released on bail.

Her younger brother, Liu Hui, is in China.

A poet, a painter, and a photographer herself, Liu Xia's writings are inward-looking, wrote Ian Johnson, noting that her poems are laden with symbols associated with the struggles of dissidents in China, such as birds and the empty chair that has come to to represent Liu Xiaobo.

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