Widow of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo leaves China

Albert Ho

Albert Ho

If I can't leave, I'll just die at home. Liu Xia, though never formally charged with a crime, had been under strict house arrest.

Liu Xia's friend, meanwhile, told Kyodo News that she wanted to leave China together with her younger brother, but that was not permitted. "I'm grateful for those who cared about her and helped her all these year", Liu Hui wrote, according to Ming Pao. In April, she said to a friend in an emotional phone call, "If I can't leave, I'll die in my home..."

BBC Chinese, citing unnamed sources, said Liu had left Beijing on a Finnair flight to Germany on Tuesday at around 11am local time. Those close to her say she suffers from heart ailments and depression, and has many times asked to leave China.

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. The deaths of her father in 2016 and her mother in February previous year added to the mountain of grief Liu Xia was carrying.

Her husband Liu Xiaobo, a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, died last year while serving an 11-year jail sentence for "subversion", making him the first Nobel laureate to die in custody since the era of Nazi Germany.

Liu was awarded the Nobel prize on October 8, 2010.

A poet, a painter, and a photographer herself, Liu Xia's writings are inward-looking, wrote Ian Johnson, noting that her poems are laden with symbols associated with the struggles of dissidents in China, such as birds and the empty chair that has come to to represent Liu Xiaobo. They were the first images of...

But the days turned into months, and then years.

"This is not a diplomatic issue", she said.

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The briefing also urges Americans to "be aware of your surroundings" and 'monitor social media for updates'. But let's be ready - and be prepared to take to the streets in the most incredible protest in our history".

Genser also urged the Chinese government to free Liu Xia's brother, Liu Hui, who remains in China. Xiaobo has already left, there is nothing in this world for me. "Nothing would be simpler for me than dying in defiance".

The news of her release was a rare piece of good news for China's beleaguered community of activists, who have been at the center of an expansive crackdown on civil society, rights lawyers and other independent groups the administration of President Xi Jinping has deemed a threat to the ruling Communist Party's grip on power.

Beijing has always insisted that she is a free citizen. She has discussed Liu Xia's case with Chinese officials.

"She was not part of our group of dissidents", Hu Jia, a Beijing-based activist and friend of Liu Xiaobo, told AFP.

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

That prompted Western governments, including Germany and the United States, to renew their calls for Beijing to release Liu Xia.

Liu Xiaobo died of liver cancer last July while under government custody, prompting new global calls for Liu Xia's release. She was shown at his closely staged funeral dressed in black and wearing dark sunglasses as she clutched a photograph of her husband.

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.

But China Human Rights Defenders researcher Frances Eve said Liu's release was an "easy win" for China. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the United Nations human rights system, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council, which address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

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