Widow of Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo has left China

2017 during a ceremony for her late husband

2017 during a ceremony for her late husband

Liu Xia, the widow of late Chinese political dissident and Nobel Peace Prize victor Liu Xiaobo, has left Beijing on a flight to Berlin, according to news reports.

Her younger brother, Liu Hui, was not on the plane, they said.

The widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning political dissident Liu Xiaobo has left China for Germany in news welcomed by rights groups who had long pressed for her release from what was effectively house arrest.

China reported today (July 10) that she departed Beijing on a Finnair flight to Berlin late Monday night, citing unnamed sources.

Liu Xia's release comes as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is visiting Germany, and after a human rights dialogue between European Union and Chinese officials in Beijing, the New York Times reports. He thanked everyone who had cared for and helped her over the years.

After his death, his wife Liu Xia-who was with him in the hospital in his last days-disappeared back into the state of house arrest she'd lived in for years. Her brother, Liu Hui, posted on WeChat that his sister had flown to Europe to "start her new life".

In a July 2017 photo released by the Shenyang Municipal Information Office, Liu Xia, wife of jailed Nobel Peace Prize victor and Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, holds a portrait of him during his funeral at a funeral parlor in Shenyang in northeastern China's Liaoning Province. "I hope from now on her life is peaceful and happy", he wrote.

Following her husband's death in July 2017, Ms Liu's whereabouts were unknown for six months, although the Chinese government claimed she was "free".

Efforts to secure Ms Liu's departure came amid growing concern over her health and state of mind, after Liao Yiwu, a dissident and friend living in Germany, released details of a telephone conversation in April in which an anguished Ms Liu said she was losing hope of leaving.

- "Own free will" - Two men guarded the entrance to Liu's Beijing apartment Tuesday, and questioned anyone who came near. The first anniversary of Liu Xiaobo's death is Friday.

Authorities had assigned guards around-the-clock outside Liu's Beijing home and restricted her access to Internet and the outside world, allowing her only occasional phone calls with a small circle of friends.

Western diplomats and rights groups had earlier hoped to be able to get Liu Hui out of China as well.

Liu Xia's departure from China was "wonderful news" but harassment of her family remained a risk to her freedom to criticize China, Amnesty International's China researcher Patrick Poon said.

An accomplished artist and poet, Liu told Associated Press reporters during an unexpected visit to her home in 2012 that she had anticipated China would punish her for her husband's Nobel award but she had not expected to be kept under "Kafkaesque" house arrest.

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