China: Liu Xia free and on way to Germany

China lets Nobel widow leave for Berlin after house arrest

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.

Germany has been pushing China to let Liu leave following the death of her husband on July 13, 2017, from liver cancer while in Chinese custody, Western diplomats have said.

Activists in Hong Kong gave a minute's applause for Liu Xia, followed by a minute's silence at a memorial for the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest veteran Liu Xiaobo, which was adorned with pictures of the couple. Chinese doctors said he was unfit for travel, and he died on July 13 aged 61.

"I'm in a sea of joy", said veteran activist "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung as he drank a toast to Liu Xiaobo.

Her release comes a day after European and Chinese officials held a human rights dialogue in Beijing. The Chinese authorities have maintained that she has the same rights as all Chinese citizens.

"Perhaps the Chinese government realised that as the anniversary of Liu Xiaobo's death approaches, keeping his widow under house arrest simply shows the Chinese to be petty, cruel and vindictive - not the image it's trying to project to the world", said Elaine Pearson from Human Rights Watch.

An accomplished artist and poet, Liu told Associated Press reporters during an unexpected visit to her home in 2012 that she had anticipated China would punish her for her husband's Nobel award but she had not expected to be kept under "Kafkaesque" house arrest.

Chinese authorities have insisted Liu Xia, who has not been formally charged of any crime, has been free to move as she wishes.

"But then they refused to do so", one of the sources said. "It wasn't until she backed down and made a decision to go [without her brother] when her health deteriorated over the past few months [that Beijing agreed]".

"Today at around 11:00 am, Liu Xia took a Finnair flight and left Beijing", friend Ye Du said. "She will start a new life and is grateful for all the people who have cared for her and helped her", her brother Liu Hui posted on WeChat.

After the Lunar New Year visit and the promise that she could soon be on a plane, Liu Xia began to despair when nothing had happened by April.

"I'm so angry that I'm ready to die here. I hope from now on her life is peaceful and happy", he wrote.

That prompted Western governments, including Germany and the United States, to renew their calls for Beijing to release Liu Xia. 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. German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets regularly with dissidents during visits to China. However, it's still worrying that her brother Liu Hui is still kept in China. However, her friends and others trying to visit her have disputed this.

"Liu Xia has been suffering from depression and under tight surveillance for so many years", he said.

China sentenced Liu Xiaobo in December 2009 to 11 years in prison.

June 2016: Liu Xia reunited with Liu Xiaobo in hospital.

In a letter published past year, Liu Xia wrote to a friend that she was "going mad" in her isolation, according to the AFP news agency. Government security guarded her home at all hours and restricted her contact with the internet and foreigners. Xiaobo has already left, there is nothing in this world for me. "Using death to defy could not be any simpler for me".

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