Widow of Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo 'leaves China'

Widow of Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo 'leaves China'

Her brother, Liu Hui, posted on WeChat that his sister had flown to Europe to "start her new life".

Almost eight years ago, neither Liu nor her husband's supporters foresaw the repercussions the award would have on her: a writer and artist who never considered herself a political person.

"I didn't have a chance/ to say a word before you became/ a character in the news, / everyone looking up to you/ as I was worn down/ at the edge of the crowd", Liu Xia once wrote in a poem to her husband.

Liu's release comes as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is visiting Germany, a country that in May said it would welcome the widow after a recording was released of her crying in desperation and indicating she had lost hope of being able to leave China.

Ms Liu, 57, a poet, was photographed smiling as she entered the terminal in Finland. Liu Xia, though never formally charged with a crime, had been under strict house arrest.

Close friends Gao Yu, a veteran journalist in Beijing, and Wu Yangwei, better known by his penname Ye Du, said Liu Xia was on a Finnair flight to Berlin that left today morning.

"Liu Xia was never a political person, and yet, for nearly eight years enormous misery was heaped upon her by Chinese authorities for the crime of merely having married her husband", Genser said in a statement Tuesday. 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.

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.

Her brother was convicted on fraud charges over a real estate abuse in 2013, a case activists believed was retribution against the family, and a way to pressure Liu Xia.

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Hua Chunying, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, said Liu's travel to Germany for medical treatment was "of her own free will". Beijing has continued to keep her and her brother Liu Hui under tight control since the dissident's death, despite constant lobbying from foreign governments and human rights groups to set her free.

Observers and activists are celebrating the long awaited news of Liu Xia's release.

Cruz previously authored a resolution honoring the life and work of Liu Xiaobo and in July of previous year, as well as the fall of 2015, delivered speeches calling attention to Liu's plight.

Frances Eve, a researcher for Chinese Human Rights Defenders, said Liu Xia's release was likely meant to mute criticism around the anniversary of Liu's death. 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 and Germany on July 9 agreed to "promote bilateral cooperation in economy, trade and investment, jointly safeguard free trade and an worldwide market based on fair and recognized rules and relax market access", said Xinhua.

In May, Berlin officials again said that should Liu Xia choose to go to Germany, she would be welcome there. "It would be easier to die than to live". The U.S. tally of China's political prisoners stood at more than 1,400 in November. "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".

China claimed that Liu Xia's freedom of movement was not impeded.

After his death, his wife Liu Xia-who was with him in the hospital in his last days-disappeared back into the state of house arrest she'd lived in for years. Her situation drove the artist and poet into depression and resulted in criticism of China's human rights record. "If I can't leave, I'll die in my home".

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