Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
Global | By Marsha Munoz

Nobel widow Liu Xia leaves China after 8 years' house arrest

Nobel widow Liu Xia leaves China after 8 years' house arrest

"Sister has already left Beijing for Europe at noon to start her new life", wrote Liu Xia's brother, Liu Hui, on a social media site.

"Liu Xia can finally leave China - not because (Chinese President) Xi Jinping had a change of heart, but because of the unity displayed by the global civil society", said prominent Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong, citing the efforts of "freedom fighters around the world" who have pressured Beijing.

Western governments and activists have urged China to release the 57-year-old, who has never been charged with a crime.

Liu's release coincides with a visit to Germany by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Frances Eve, a researcher for Chinese Human Rights Defenders, said Liu Xia's "long-awaited" release was an "easy win" likely meant to stem the criticism around the upcoming anniversary of Liu's death in custody.

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Chinese authorities had consistently maintained Liu was free but imposed severe restrictions on her movement and she was under constant surveillance. "Ever since her late husband received the Nobel Peace Prize while in a Chinese prison, Liu Xia was also unjustly detained".

Liu was believed to be reluctant to leave China over the safety of her family.

Liu Xiaobo was only the second Nobel Peace Prize victor to die in police custody, and human rights group say that shows the Communist Party's increasingly hard line. He returned from an academic job in the United States to take part in the 1989 demonstrations in Tiananmen Square and was arrested in the aftermath of the massacre there - the first of several stints in Chinese jail cells. The last time a famous political prisoner was permitted to leave China was in 2012. In 2009, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

The following year, the writer became China's first recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his "long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights". A chair sat empty for him at the ceremony in Norway. Her forced solitude was an emblem of Chinese cruelty toward a wife whose husband was ripped away from her for the crime of expressing his views, and then-nearly exactly a year ago-allowed to die in prison while denied access to potentially lifesaving medical treatment overseas. 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.

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. She has never been far from our thoughts, including this spring when dozens of artists and writers joined in literary solidarity with Liu Xia.

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Occasionally, she managed to make contact with friends and supporters. The deaths of her father in 2016 and her mother in February a year ago added to the mountain of grief Liu Xia was carrying.

"Too solitary", the note read, "I have not the right to speech / To speak loudly / I live like a plant / I lie like a corpse".

"When I visited Xiaobo, she wouldn't get involved with our political discussions".

Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said last Thursday that the government has been "caring about the health condition" of the widow, indicating that it will release her anytime soon. I hope that our parents and my brother-in-law [Liu Xiaobo] could rest in peace now and keep blessing her [from heaven]. "It's easier to die than live".

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