Liu Xia, wife of late China dissident, left for Berlin

Blanche Robertson
July 12, 2018

Ms Liu's close friends Gao Yu, a veteran journalist in Beijing, and Wu Yangwei, better known by his pen name Ye Du, said she was on a Finnair flight to Berlin that left on Tuesday morning. "I am very excited when my sister left safely", he said.

"We hope Liu Xia's release signals another stage in China, that the treatment of dissidents will be improved", Leung told AFP, but added he was anxious about her younger brother Liu Hui who could be held "hostage" while he remained in China. He was due to leave Germany on Tuesday.

"She and her brother, Liu Hui, should immediately be allowed to leave for Germany or another country of their choice if they wish to", Gabriel had said.

That prompted Western governments, including Germany and the United States, to renew their calls for Beijing to release Liu Xia.

Patrick Poon, a Hong Kong-based researcher at Amnesty International, said he hopes the widow's apparent release assuages the mental anguish she is reported to have endured.

"Now China has made use of an opportunity to do Germany a favor so as to strengthen the Sino-German relationship".

Ministry spokeswoman Hula Chunking told a regular briefing that she had no further information to offer on the case and added that she did not see any association linking Liu Xian's departure with a visit to Germany by Premier Lib Keating.

Concerns for her safety surged in May, after a conversation between Liu Xia and her friend, exiled Chinese writer Liao Yiwu, surfaced on the Internet.

But this does not herald an improvement in human rights, this diplomat said.

If the reports that she's been released to Germany are true, it would mark an end to almost a decade of unofficial detention for Liu Xia-who has been kept under strict state surveillance since Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2010.

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Liu Xia was never charged but was largely confined to her Beijing home. If she wanted to go shopping, she had to be escorted by police, a friend told Reuters.

In a letter published a year ago, Liu Xia wrote to a friend that she was "going mad" in her isolation, according to the AFP news agency. Her brother in Beijing seemed to confirm the news on WeChat. While in Beijing in May, German chancellor Angela Merkel met with the wife of a detained human rights lawyer.

News of her departure comes three days before the anniversary of her husband's death.

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

"Perhaps the Chinese government realised that as the anniversary of Liu Xiaobo's death approaches, keeping his widow under house arrest simply shows the Chinese to be petty, cruel and vindictive - not the image it's trying to project to the world", said Elaine Pearson from Human Rights Watch.

Several expressed concerns about the fate of her brother, Liu Hui, who has previously been convicted of fraud and sentenced to jail in a case supporters said was a form of retaliation against the attention the Nobel laureate was getting.

“Now, the harassment of Liu Xias family who remain in China must end too.

Western diplomats and rights groups had earlier hoped to be able to get Liu Hui out of China as well.

Activists in Hong Kong who have been campaigning on Liu Xia's behalf rejoiced over the news of her release Tuesday.

"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, almost one year since Liu Xiaobo's untimely and undignified death", Patrick Poon, China Researcher at Amnesty said in a statement he sent to Al Jazeera.

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