China frees Nobel widow from house arrest that drew outcry

BEIJING (AP) – China allowed the widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo to be freed from house arrest and leave for Berlin yesterday, ending an eight-year ordeal that drove the poet into depression and drew intense criticism of Beijing’s human rights record.

The release of Liu Xia, who has never been charged with any crime, is the result of years of campaigning by Western governments and activists and comes just days before the one-year anniversary of the death of dissident Liu Xiaobo while he was serving a prison sentence for inciting subversion.

Liu Xia’s brother, Liu Hui, wrote on a social media site: “Sister has already left Beijing for Europe at noon to start her new life. Thanks to everyone who has helped and cared for her these few years. I hope from now on her life is peaceful and happy.”

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is visiting Germany, a country that in May said it would welcome the widow after a recording was released of her crying in desperation and indicating she had lost hope of being able to leave China.

Liu’s close friends Gao Yu, a veteran journalist in Beijing, and Wu Yangwei, better known by his pen name Ye Du, said Liu Xia was on a Finnair flight to Berlin that left yesterday morning. Wu said he spoke to Liu Xia’s older brother, Liu Tong.

File photo shows Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, poses with a photo of her and her husband in Beijing. – AP