Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

China frees Nobel widow from house arrest that drew outcry

China frees Nobel widow from house arrest that drew outcry

China has allowed the widow of the late Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Liu Xiaobo, to leave the country following almost eight years under de facto house arrest.

Liu Xia was never charged with a crime but has spent eight years under house arrest.

Rights groups and Western nations had been raising pressure on Beijing over Liu Xia in recent months, as fears grew among rights groups that she might never be able to leave and live overseas, a wish she had made clear. Thanks to everyone who has helped and cared for her these few years. "May the rest of her life be peaceful and happy". "Sister has already left Beijing for Europe at noon to start her new life".

China claimed that Liu Xia's freedom of movement was not impeded.

Liu Hui said it felt like he was able to finally unload the "dead weight" off his shoulders. She unflinchingly supported Liu Xiaobo but never actively participated in his campaigns. Her brother, Liu Hui, was not on the plane, they said.

Liu's departure comes a day after Chinese premier Li Keqiang met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

Johnny Lau, a political commentator in Hong Kong, said he believed the authorities had let Ms Liu go to avoid her case sparking a "surge" of pressure on China around the July 13 anniversary of Liu Xiaobo's death.

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

In a July 2017 photo released by the Shenyang Municipal Information Office, Liu Xia, wife of jailed Nobel Peace Prize victor and Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, holds a portrait of him during his funeral at a funeral parlor in Shenyang in northeastern China's Liaoning Province.

- "Very severe" depression - Speaking to AFP before her departure, close friend Ye Du told AFP that Liu was suffering from "very severe" depression, adding that she would "sometimes faint". Liu Xiaobo was a writer and a poet imprisoned for advocating for broad political reforms and greater human rights in China. 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. After the doctors determined Liu was "fit for travel", the Chinese government restated its previous position that he was too ill to travel overseas for treatment. "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".

China's Foreign Ministry later confirmed her departure saying she left the country "by her own free will" for medical treatment, without specifying the ailments, according to spokeswoman Hua Chunying.

Officials have also insisted that Liu Xia was free to move around - a clear contradiction of the reality on the ground, according to her friends and people who encountered guards blocking their attempts to visit her at her home in Beijing. "Ever since her late husband received the Nobel Peace Prize while in a Chinese prison, Liu Xia was also unjustly detained".

Like this: