Liu Xia, the widow of late Nobel Peace Prize laureate and dissident Liu Xiao Bo, was allowed to board a plane in Beijing bound for Berlin to get medical treatment on Tuesday morning, according to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Liu Xia went to Germany for medical treatment, said Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the foreign ministry.
“My elder sister has departed Beijing for Europe, starting her new life. I thank those who have cared and helped her across these years,” Liu Hui, Liu Xia’s brother, said in a message on Weixin, or WeChat.
Suffering from depression, Liu Xia had been under house arrest since 2010, days after her husband, who was imprisoned for 11 years for inciting subversion in 2009, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
For the last eight years her mental health had deteriorated as she had limited contact with the outside world. All calls and visits by friends and family had to be pre-arranged.
The release of Liu Xia came three days before the first anniversary of her husband’s death on Friday. There was speculation her release could have been the result of pressure from activists, western diplomats and more likely Germany, which Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was visiting until Tuesday.
Liao Yiwu, a Berlin-based Chinese writer and a friend of Liu Xia’s, was quoted as saying in an RTHK report that he had heard she would be allowed to leave China after Li’s visit to Germany.
For many years, Chinese authorities claimed they had granted her all her legal rights. On July 5, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Chinese government protected its citizens’ rights based on the law and had been showing more care to Liu Xia than she would get in other countries.
In May, Germany offered to welcome Liu Xia after footage of her in tears was made public. On a visit to China, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed concern about the human right situation there.
Liu Xia chose to go to Berlin as her friend Liao was living there, said Ye Du, another friend. A non-government organization will take care of Liu Xia in Berlin, he said.
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China said it was delighted by the release of Liu Xia, who it added had been under house arrest unlawfully for many years.