Published: Thu, July 12, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

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

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

Her late husband, Liu Xiaobo, died of cancer in July 2017 after spending more than eight years in prison for his advocacy of human rights in China. Her brother, Liu Hui, posted on WeChat that his sister had flown to Europe to "start her new life". While all expressed relief for Liu Xia, there is concern for her family, notably her brother Liu Hui, who was sentenced to 11 years for fraud in 2013, possibly as retribution for Liu Xiaobo's Nobel award.

"Liu Xia is finally free and today the world celebrates her enjoyment of the liberties that were rightfully hers all along", he said.

"The release of Liu Xia shows that when concerned governments push hard enough, Beijing will back down", Richardson said.

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.

In the months since Liu Xiaobo's death, friends and supporters of Liu Xia, including United Nations human rights experts, have expressed concern about her mental health due to a series of recordings she released discussing her grief. German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Beijing and met Xi later that month.

Liu Xiaobo was sentenced in 2009 on charges of inciting subversion of state power after he co-authored a manifesto calling for political change in China.

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If the reports that she's been released to Germany are true, it would mark an end to almost a decade of unofficial detention for Liu Xia-who has been kept under strict state surveillance since Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2010. State security assigned guards around-the-clock outside her Beijing home and restricted her access to the internet and the outside world, allowing her only occasional phone calls with a small circle of friends.

Liu Xia's release and her departure from the country show that sustained global pressure can bring about positive human rights developments in China, Human Rights Watch said.

Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing that she had no further information to offer on the case and added that she did not see any association linking Liu Xia's departure with a visit to Germany by Premier Li Keqiang. That was the last time she left home as a free woman.

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

"Especially because it has happened around the anniversary of Liu Xiaobo's death", Liao said.

Analysts however pointed to the forthcoming anniversary of her husband's death as a reason for the timing. 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.

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Semi-autonomous Hong Kong, which enjoys freedoms unmatched on the mainland, is the only place in China where public campaigning for the couple and human rights are tolerated by authorities. "China hopes to team up with Germany", Mr Lau said.

After Liu Xiaobo's funeral in July past year, his widow did not return to her home in Beijing until September, as calls grew from the worldwide community and supporters for her release.

Liu Xia was on a Finnair flight bound for Helsinki that left Beijing at around 11 a.m. local time, Ye Du, a writer and friend, told Reuters.

"It's easier to die than live".

To avoid China's fierce online censorship, a number of Chinese netizens subtly paid their respects to Merkel as well as to Germany by writing a short thank you note on their Weibo accounts, without mentioning Liu Xia's name. "Using death to defy could not be any simpler for me". "We couldn't save Liu Xiaobo, which is a regret that I will carry for the rest of my life, and we wouldn't have been able to bear it if anything had happened to his widow".

"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.

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