China says Liu Xia went to Germany for medical treatment

China lets Nobel widow leave for Berlin after house arrest

Liu Xia was held under illegal house arrest since Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. She was closely monitored by state security agents and could only be reached by her closest friends by phone in limited circumstances. That was the last time she left home as a free woman.

In May, several foreign diplomats who tried to visit her at her apartment amid concerns over her health were denied access. The German embassy had offered in April to help Liu Xia travel to Germany but the move did not take place. A few hours later, she was seen getting into a vehicle at Berlin's Tegel airport.

Two separate sources close to Liu Xia said she had been pressing to leave China since previous year, but only with her brother, after the authorities indicated they might allow her to go. Her brother, Liu Hui, was not on the plane, they said. "I'm grateful for those who cared about her and helped her all these year", Liu Hui wrote, according to Ming Pao.

Liao had earlier voiced his joy on Twitter, saying: "I am so, so, so happy!"

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

The Chinese government said she was a private citizen, free to go at anytime.

Friends said the poet had taken a Finnair flight to Berlin via Helsinki, just days before the first anniversary of her husband's death from liver cancer which sparked condemnation around the world.

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 Xia has been kept isolated for so many years", Mr Wu said. Liu declined to give a formal interview, citing fears for her younger brother.

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

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Liu Xia is an accomplished artist and poet who reluctantly followed her husband into politics two decades ago. In 2009, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Liu was awarded the Nobel on October 8, 2010.

"This is not a diplomatic issue", she said.

Read | Who was Liu Xiaobo? "Dying is easier than living - there is nothing simpler for me than to protest with death".

The news of her release was celebrated by China's beleaguered community of activists, who have been at the centre of an expansive crackdown on civil society, rights lawyers and other independent groups the administration of President Xi Jinping has deemed a threat to the ruling Communist Party's grip on power.

China's foreign ministry confirmed on Tuesday that Liu Xia had left for health reasons and that she had gone to Germany to "treat her illness according to her wishes". "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 U.S. State Department said it welcomed the news that Chinese authorities "allowed her to leave China as she long wished", but said it remains concerned about her brother and hopes he can join her in Germany.

"Liu Xia has been suffering from depression and under tight surveillance for so many years", he said. She was shown at his closely staged funeral dressed in black and wearing dark sunglasses as she clutched a photograph of her husband. The first, Carl von Ossietzky, died of tuberculosis in Germany in 1938 while jailed for opposing Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime.

Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has arrived in Germany following being freed from house arrest after eight years.

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