Published: Wed, July 11, 2018

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

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

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

"It is a tremendous relief that Liu Xia has been able to leave China for freedom overseas", said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.

The widow of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has been allowed to leave China to seek medical treatment in Germany.

"It is wonderful news that Liu Xia is finally free and that her persecution and illegal detention at the hands of the Chinese authorities has come to an end, almost one year since Liu Xiaobo's untimely and undignified death".

Liu Xiaobo was only the second Nobel Peace Prize victor to die in police custody, and human rights group say that shows the Communist Party's increasingly hard line.

- "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".

But for nearly a year that wish has remained out of reach, as she has remained under house arrest in her residential compound in Beijing, where friends said she was losing her will to live.

Friends and family quoted in media reports say she boarded a Finnair flight in Beijing on Tuesday for Europe. "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". The Post says he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed her release on medical grounds.

Diplomats have said that authorities had continued to monitor Ms Liu after the death of her husband and she had only been able to meet and speak to friends and family in pre-arranged phone calls and visits.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying confirmed Liu Xia's departure on Tuesday, telling a press briefing that the widow left for Germany of her own accord to receive treatment. "I hope that being in a free country will allow Liu Xia to heal her long-standing traumas and wounds". The first anniversary of Liu Xiaobo's death is Friday. "It's easier to die than live".

China had criticized calls by Western governments for Liu's release as interference in its domestic affairs and insisted that Liu Xia was free. "Using death to defy could not be any simpler for me".

Last year, she appeared pale, gaunt and somber in images released by the authorities as she cared for Liu Xiaobo just before his death from liver cancer in a hospital under police custody. She was depicted attending Liu's closely staged funeral dressed in black and wearing dark sunglasses as she clutched a photograph of her husband.

Her husband was only the second Nobel Peace Prize victor to die in police custody, a fact pointed to by human rights groups as an indication of the ruling party's increasingly hard line against its critics.

FILE PHOTO - Liu Xia, wife of veteran Chinese pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo, listens to a question during an interview in Beijing June 24, 2009. "The human rights situation in China has been deteriorating in recent years, so this stands out as something special".

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