Published: Tue, July 10, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Widow of Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo 'leaves China'


Liu Xia, the widow of China's Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, left Beijing for Germany on Tuesday morning after years of being detained without legal cause, her family told Kyodo News, amid growing global attention to her plight.

But China Human Rights Defenders researcher Frances Eve said Liu's release was an "easy win" for China.

"Liu Xia might not be able to speak much for fear of her brother's safety", Poon said.

Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since 2010, left China to receive "medical treatment according to her own will", foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

While precise details of Liu's flight out of China are unknown, the only Finnair flight that left Beijing Capital International Airport bound for Berlin on Tuesday morning was Flight AY86, which took off at 10.55am, according to the airport's website. He had been sentenced to 11 years in 2009 on subversion charges.

Her departure comes three days before the one year anniversary of her husband's death, and amid renewed calls for her release from activists and governments around the world and the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

Ms Hua said she "could not see any link" between Liu Xia's departure and the high-level Chinese visit.

China had repeatedly said Liu Xia was free and accorded all rights guaranteed to her by law.

The German embassy had offered in April to help Liu Xia travel to Germany but the move did not take place.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is in Germany this week.

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In May, dozens of the world's leading writers and artists, from Michael Chabon to Paul Auster and Khaled Hosseini, called on China to release her to seek medical treatment overseas.

Western diplomats and rights groups had earlier hoped to be able to get Liu Hui out of China as well.

Johnny Lau, a political commentator in Hong Kong, said he believed the authorities had let Ms Liu go to avoid her case sparking a "surge" of pressure on China around the July 13 anniversary of Liu Xiaobo's death.

"Liu Xia has been kept isolated for so many years", Wu said by phone from the southern city of Guangzhou. "If I can't leave, I'll die in my home", she said.

Friends say Liu Xia has expressed a preference for going to Germany, where she has a circle of friends from China's dissident and literary circles.

Liu Hui is in China.

"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.

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.

After years of living under house arrest Liu Xia suffers from clinical depression and her friends said last year that she required medication just to be able to sleep at night. "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". At the time, Liu had arrived in Helsinki, Finland to transfer flights.

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