Monday, 24 September, 2018

Liu Xia, widow of dissident, leaves China for Germany, friend says

China lets Nobel widow leave for Berlin after house arrest Widow of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo arrives in Germany
Steven Clarke | 12 July, 2018, 14:11

Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo, has left China and is on a plane out of the country, according to a friend familiar with the situation.

Liu Xia remained under house arrest for eight years.

Frances Eve, a researcher for Chinese Human Rights Defenders, said Liu Xia's release was likely meant to mute criticism around the anniversary of Liu's death.

Chinese authorities had consistently maintained Liu was free but imposed severe restrictions on her movement and she was under constant surveillance. Her release comes after years of campaigning by Western governments and activists. A person briefed on the matter said Tuesday, July 10, 2018, that Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, has left China for Europe after eight years under house arrest.

"If I can't leave, I'll die in my home", she told her friend.

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

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel urged the Chinese government to let Liu Xia and her brother leave China for Germany after the death of Liu Xiaobo in July of 2017.

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. In 2009, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

An accomplished poet and writer, Liu Xia was placed under house arrest by the Chinese authorities in 2010, after her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize but was unable to collect it due to his detention on political grounds.

Chinese activists have been at the center of a crackdown by the government on groups the government considers a threat to the ruling Communist Party.

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He was last arrested for his role in creating Charter 08, a call for political changes in China.

The Chinese government permitted the blind, activist Chen Guangcheng to travel to NY after he escaped from house arrest and hid for six days in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

Liu, a petite, bespectacled poet, was photographed smiling as she entered the terminal in a gray T-shirt under a black and white knit cardigan.

"This is fantastic news, something we have all been hoping against hope for a long time, " said Hu Jia, a family friend and Beijing-based activist. "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".

Merkel has spoken out frequently on Chinese human rights abuses and is believed to have pushed for Liu's release during her May visit to Beijing, where she met the wives of detained human rights lawyers. According to AP, Liu Xia's brother, Liu Hui, sent his thanks to his sister's supporters via social media. However, her friends and others trying to visit her have disputed this.

Efforts to secure Liu Xia'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 Liu Xia said she was losing hope of leaving.

This February during the Lunar New Year holiday, Liu Xia and her brother Liu Hui were visited by a top official from the Ministry of Public Security, trusted by President Xi Jinping, who suggested she could be freed after the annual legislative session the following month, sources told the South China Morning Post earlier.

In May, several foreign diplomats who tried to visit her at her apartment amid concerns over her health were denied access.

This story was originally reported by Gerry Shih and Tanan Wang for the Associated Press. Phil Dierking adapted this story for VOA Learning English.

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