Liu Xia, widow of Nobel laureate and political dissident Liu Xiaobo, leaves China for Germany


July 10, 2018 21:38:31

The widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning political dissident Liu Xiaobo has left China for Germany in news welcomed by rights groups who had long pressed for her release from what was effectively house arrest.

Key points:

  • China’s foreign minister says Liu Xia has gone to Germany to seek medical treatment
  • Ms Liu’s younger brother says her mental condition nor her physical condition are ideal
  • Her departure comes just days before the July 13 anniversary of Liu Xiaobo’s death

Liu Xia, 57, was on a Finnair flight bound for Helsinki that left Beijing about 11:00am (local time), Ye Du, a writer and friend, told Reuters.

Mr Ye said he was informed of Ms Liu’s departure by her older brother.

Liu Hui, Ms Liu’s younger brother, told Radio Television Hong Kong they were informed she was able to leave Beijing last week and that he was happy to send his sister off.

“In the last two years, our parents and her husband died one by one,” Liu Hui said.

“Neither her mental condition nor her physical condition are ideal.

“I hope she can improve her health condition and adjust her mood … after leaving here, and then gradually start her new life.”

Liu Hui said it felt like he was able to finally unload the “dead weight” off his shoulders.

“I feel I was entrusted by my parents and [Liu] Xiaobo. I am very excited when my sister left safely,” he said.

Ms Liu’s departure, following a year of pressure on Beijing from activists and rights groups, comes at the end of a visit to Germany by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, during which the two countries signed commercial deals worth more than $US23 billion ($31 billion).

‘China hopes to team up with Germany’

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.

China has been seeking to bolster its ties with the European Union amid a trade war with the United States.

“A trade war has also broken out between China and the United States. China hopes to team up with Germany,” Mr Lau said.

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

Germany has been pushing China to let Ms Liu leave following the death of her husband on July 13, 2017, from liver cancer at the age of 61 while in custody, Western diplomats have said.

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.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing that Ms Liu had gone to Germany to seek medical treatment in accordance with her wishes.

Ms Hua said she “could not see any link” between Liu Xia’s departure and the high-level Chinese visit.

“This is not a diplomatic issue,” she said.

Ms Liu, a poet and artist who suffers from depression, had been under house arrest since 2010 when Liu Xiaobo, a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests who was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for inciting subversion, was awarded the Nobel.

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

Harassment of Liu’s family remain a risk to her freedom

Efforts to secure Ms Liu’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 Ms Liu said she was losing hope of leaving.

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

Germany and the United States both sent doctors to visit Liu Xiaobo during his last days.

Ms Liu’s departure was “wonderful news” but harassment of her family remained a risk to her freedom to criticise China, Amnesty International’s China researcher Patrick Poon said.

Liu Hui is in China. Handed an 11-year jail sentence for fraud in 2013, Liu Hui was later released but remained monitored, according to friends of the family.

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

“Liu Xia might not be able to speak much for fear of her brother’s safety,” Mr Poon said.

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.










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