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Widow of Chinese dissident leaves for Germany

12 July 2018

It's been nearly a year since Nobel peace prize victor, writer, and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo passed away of liver cancer in custody in China, with Beijing rejecting pleas for the dissident to be allowed to travel overseas for treatment.

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.

Liu Xiaobo died of liver cancer last July while under government custody, prompting a new round of worldwide calls for his widow's release. A few hours later, she was seen getting into a vehicle at Berlin's Tegel airport.

Diplomats have said that authorities had continued to monitor Ms Liu after the death of her husband and she had only been able to meet and speak to friends and family in pre-arranged phone calls and visits. Su Yutong, a family friend based in Germany, also confirmed her departure.

Liu Xiaobo had been jailed in 2009 for subversion, for his involvement in Charter 08, a manifesto calling for reforms. "We hope she is en route to freedom and hopefully a more peaceful life".

Supporters said this was done because of the attention Nobel victor Liu Xiaobo received. 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.

Guards ate and slept outside her door, driving away well-wishers, activists, journalists and diplomats - a slow-burning ordeal worse than death, she said in a rare recording that emerged in May. The deaths of her father in 2016 and her mother in February previous year added to the mountain of grief Liu Xia was carrying.

In a letter published previous year, Liu Xia wrote to a friend that she was "going mad" in her isolation, according to the AFP news agency.

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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.

"It's easier to die than live".

Officials at the German embassy in Beijing did not confirm the news when contacted by Reuters and referred questions to the German Foreign Office in Berlin.

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. "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".

The poet and artist was reported to be suffering from heart problems and severe depression in December 2013, but was reluctant to seek medical attention because she feared further punishment. "China hopes to team up with Germany", Mr Lau said. She was shown at his closely staged funeral dressed in black and wearing dark sunglasses as she clutched a photograph of her husband.

He knew he may not have long to live, but friends at the time said Liu Xiaobo wanted to leave China for treatment, and for his wife to go with him. The first, Carl von Ossietzky, died of tuberculosis in Germany in 1938 while jailed for opposing Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime.

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. Ye said he was informed of Liu's departure by her older brother.

He said China's constitution protected human rights.

Widow of Chinese dissident leaves for Germany