Rights groups cautiously hail Liu Xia departure

  • Rights groups cautiously hail Liu Xia departure

Rights groups cautiously hail Liu Xia departure

In this December 6, 2012 photo, Liu Xia, the wife of China's jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, poses with a photo of her and her husband during an interview at her home in Beijing.

Almost eight years ago, neither Liu nor her husband's supporters foresaw the repercussions the award would have on her: a writer and artist who never considered herself a political person. "Liu Xia might not be able to speak much for fear of her brother's safety", he said.

Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia.

It is believed Liu Xia had been reluctant to leave her family behind.

"Now, the harassment of Liu Xia's family who remain in China must end too".

When Liu Xiaobo died, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel urged the Chinese government to let Liu Xia and her brother leave the country for Germany.

When her democracy activist husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, Liu Xia was elated.

- "Very severe" depression - Speaking to AFP before her departure, close friend Ye Du told AFP that Liu was suffering from "very severe" depression, adding that she would "sometimes faint".

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". The last time a high-profile political prisoner was allowed to leave China was in 2012, when Beijing permitted the blind activist Chen Guangcheng to fly to NY after he escaped from house arrest and hid for six days in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Liu Hui was prosecuted in 2013 on questionable fraud charges, though later released on bail.

Liu Hui is in China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying confirmed Liu Xia's departure on Tuesday, telling a press briefing that the widow left for Germany of her own accord to receive treatment.

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

Officials have also insisted that Liu Xia was a free citizen - a clear contradiction of the reality on the ground, according to her friends and people who encountered guards blocking their attempts to visit her at her home in Beijing.

"It is a tremendous relief that Liu Xia has been able to leave China for freedom overseas", said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. "She is flying to Europe to start her life anew", he said.

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. "It would be easier to die than to live". "Using death to defy could not be any simpler for me".

Liu Xiaobo died of liver cancer last July while under government custody, prompting renewed calls for Liu Xia's release.

She was an effervescent young poet, painter and photographer; he a public intellectual.

Her husband, a university professor turned human rights campaigner, was jailed in 2009 for inciting subversion. The first, Carl von Ossietzky, died from tuberculosis in Germany in 1938 while serving a sentence for opposing Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime.

As President Xi Jinping's leadership has pledged to advance the rule of law in the country, it apparently made a decision to release her ahead of the first anniversary of her husband's death.

"I think the government wanted to try and save face, and make it seem as though it is a country ruled according to law when everything about her case has shown demonstrably that it is not", Eve said.