The widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo has been allowed to leave the country, boarded a flight for Germany, after almost eight years of house arrest, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed Tuesday.
Liu Xia, who had been under house arrest since her husband won the prize in 2010, took a Finnair flight to Berlin, at 11:00 local time (03:00 GMT) on Tuesday, a friend, Ye Du, told news agencies. She departed just 3 days before the death anniversary of her husband.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Liu Xia had left the country to seek medical treatment overseas, according to Reuters.
Her husband, a university professor turned human rights campaigner, was jailed in 2009 for inciting subversion.
Liu Xiaobo died of cancer last July in a hospital in northeastern China, a month after he was granted medical parole from a 11-year prison sentence for “inciting subversion of state power“. His ashes were scattered at sea.
Liu Xia, a poet, has never been charged with any crime but said in May she was ready to die in protest at her continued detention.
She is said to have suffered from depression after spending years under heavy surveillance.
In May, she told her friend Liao Yiwu by phone that it was “easier to die than live”.
“I’ve got nothing to be afraid of”, she was quoted as saying. “If I can’t leave, I’ll die in my home. Xiaobo is gone, and there’s nothing in the world for me now.”
Mr Yiwu also uploaded a recording of a phone conversation he had had in April with Mrs Liu, where she can be heard crying and saying: “I’m ready to die here.”
Patrick Poon, China Researcher at the human rights groups Amnesty International, said it was “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“.
He added, “The Chinese authorities tried to silence her, but she stood tall for human rights.”
Amnesty further called for an end to the harassment of Liu Xia’s family who remained in China.
“It would be most callous of the Chinese authorities to use Liu Xia’s relatives to put pressure on Liu Xia to prevent her from speaking out in future,” its researcher added.