China says Liu Xia went to Germany for medical treatment

China says Liu Xia went to Germany for medical treatment

Berlin and other Western governments have been pushing for China to allow Liu to leave the country ever since her husband died of liver cancer a year ago this month.

Liu Xiaobo was arrested on June 23, 2009 and later sentenced to 11 years in jail on the charge of "inciting subversion of state power", a catch-all used to punish many activists. Liu Xia traveled from Beijing to his prison in Liaoning Province to inform him of the news, and shortly upon her return was placed under house arrest. As President Xi Jinping's leadership has pledged to advance the rule of law in the country, it apparently made a decision to release her ahead of the first anniversary of her husband's death. China's deteriorating rights record is also being felt beyond its borders as it seeks to undermine worldwide human rights institutions.

"[Liu Xia's] forced solitude was an emblem of Chinese cruelty toward a wife whose husband was ripped away from her for the crime of expressing his views, and then-nearly exactly a year ago-allowed to die in prison while denied access to potentially lifesaving medical treatment overseas", PEN America's Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Nossel said in a statement on the group's website.

Mr Liu died of liver cancer last July while under government custody, prompting fresh global calls for his wife's release.

Close friend Ye Du, speaking to AFP before Liu's departure, said she was suffering from "very severe" depression, adding she would "sometimes faint" and was taking medicine to sleep. Poon, citing an unnamed source, said Liu had been allowed to leave but her brother, Liu Hui has to remain in Beijing.

Days after the Nobel Committee awarded him the Peace Prize in 2010, infuriating Beijing, Chinese authorities put Ms Liu under house arrest.

But he said great anger remained among Liu Xia's supporters and rights campaigners.

Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, free from house arrest after eight years, has emerged from a plane visibly overjoyed at an airport in Helsinki, Finland.

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. "I hope from now on her life is peaceful and happy", he wrote.

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.

Liu Xia was never charged but was largely confined to her Beijing home.

Liu's friends said her psychological condition had steadily deteriorated, particularly since the death of her husband.

Her departure for Germany also came as Chinese premier Li Keqiang wrapped up an official visit to Germany, and after United Nations human rights experts had voiced concerns for her mental health.

The Chinese-language report said Liu Xia was aboard a Finnair flight that departed from Beijing at 11 a.m. (0300 GMT).

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been vocal about Chinese human rights abuses and is believed to have pushed for Liu Xia's release during her May visit to Beijing, where she met the wives of detained human rights lawyers.

Liu Xia poses with a photo of her and her husband during an interview at her home in Beijing on December 6, 2012. The last time China let a high-profile political prisoner leave was in 2012, when blind activist Chen Guangcheng was allowed to fly to NY after escaping from house arrest and hiding for six days in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

Liu Hui is in China.

In May, Western diplomats tried to visit her in her home, but were turned away by security personnel, an official of one of the embassies involved told Reuters at the time. Liu Xiaobo was a writer and a poet imprisoned for advocating for broad political reforms and greater human rights in China. "Dying is easier than living - there is nothing simpler for me than to protest with death".