Freedom for detained dissident’s widow after long battle with China

Freedom for detained dissident’s widow after long battle with China

Freedom for detained dissident’s widow after long battle with China

The Chinese government permitted Liu Xia, the widow of dissident Liu Xiaobo, to board a plane to Germany on the morning of July 10, 2018, almost a year to the day since her husband's death, Human Rights Watch said today.

Her late husband, Liu Xiaobo, died of cancer in July 2017 after spending more than eight years in prison for his advocacy of human rights in China.

Shortly after the Nobel announcement, Liu, 57, was placed under effective house arrest, where she remained under heavy surveillance and control until her stunning release on Tuesday.

Photographers caught up with her in Helsinki, where she was in transit, and she grinned widely for the cameras spreading her arms - a stark contrast from the few images of her that have surfaced over the past few years in China.

Germany, which is also home to dissident artist Ai Weiwei, has been outspoken on rights in China. Her 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.

Despite a diagnosis of late stage liver cancer and calls from the worldwide community to release him for urgent medical treatment, Liu Xiaobo died at the age of 61 while still imprisoned on July 13, 2017.

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.

Gao Yu, a family friend and veteran Chinese journalist in Beijing, confirmed the post was written by Liu Hui and said that Liu Xia was headed to Berlin.

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

"Especially because it has happened around the anniversary of Liu Xiaobo's death", Liao said.

But he voiced concern for her brother Liu Hui who remains in China and said she "might not be able to speak much for fear of her brother's safety".

"While Liu Xia is free, our work is not complete", he said.

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

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. Her friends say her inability to leave her home has taken a toll on her mental health, especially following her husband's death.

It is wonderful news that Liu Xia is finally free and that her persecution and illegal detention at the hands of the Chinese authorities has come to an end.

While authorities allowed Liu Xia to leave China, her brother Liu Hui reportedly has remained in China.

News of her release came just a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met in Berlin, stressing their shared commitment to free trade in what some observers saw as a message to U.S. President Donald Trump. 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.

The Chinese government has criticized calls by Western governments for Liu's release, saying that foreign countries were making "improper remarks" over local issues.

Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia.

Western diplomats, however, disagree. He said China's constitution protected human rights. "Dying is easier than living - there is nothing simpler for me than to protest with death".

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.

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