China lets Nobel widow leave for Berlin after house arrest
12 July, 2018, 14:14
Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo who had been under de facto house arrest in China, left the country Tuesday en route to Germany, according to friends.
Friends said the poet had taken a Finnair flight to Berlin via Helsinki, just days before the first anniversary of her husband's death from liver cancer which sparked condemnation around the world.
"I'm in a sea of joy", said veteran activist "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung as he drank a toast to her. "Sister has already left Beijing for Europe at noon to start her new life".
Patrick Poon, a China researcher for Amnesty International, said Liu Xia is "a very important example of how international pressure still can work on human rights cases in China" at a time when many believe lobbying the country on such issues is futile.
That prompted Western governments, including Germany and the United States, to renew their calls for Beijing to release Liu Xia.
"Now China has made use of an opportunity to do Germany a favour so as to strengthen the Sino-German relationship".
Despite a diagnosis of late stage liver cancer and calls from the worldwide community to release him for urgent medical treatment, Liu Xiaobo died at the age of 61 while still imprisoned on July 13, 2017.
Ministry spokeswoman Hula Chunking 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 Xian's departure with a visit to Germany by Premier Lib Keating.
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.
Guards ate and slept outside her door, driving away well-wishers, activists, journalists and diplomats - a slow-burning ordeal worse than death, she said in a rare recording that emerged in May.
The 57-year-old poet, painter and photographer had been under house arrest since 2010, when her husband Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while in prison.
Her journey comes after the United States and European Union have repeatedly urged President Xi Jinping to allow the widow to leave the country, asserting she had never been charged with a crime. If she wanted to go shopping, she had to be escorted by police, a friend told Reuters.
Some other friends told DW that Liu Xia is headed to Berlin.
Rights groups and Western nations had been raising pressure on Beijing over Liu Xia in recent months, as fears grew among rights groups that she might never be able to leave and live overseas, a wish she had made clear. While in Beijing in May, German chancellor Angela Merkel met with the wife of a detained human rights lawyer.
Efforts to secure Ms Liu'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 Ms Liu said she was losing hope of leaving.
Germany, which is also home to dissident artist Ai Weiwei, has been outspoken on rights in China.
Memorial events to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Liu Xiaobo's death on Friday are planned in cities around the world including Hong Kong, Taipei and Berlin. However, it's still worrying that her brother Liu Hui is still kept in China. "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".
Several people expressed concern about Liu's brother, Liu Hui, who was accused of fraud and sentenced to jail.
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