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The Journal Gazette

  • Liu Xia Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo, reacts as she arrives at the Helsinki International Airport in Vantaa, Finland, Tuesday, July 10, 2018. China on Tuesday allowed Liu Xia to fly to Berlin, ending an eight-year house arrest that had drawn intense international criticism and turned the 57-year old poet _ who reluctantly followed her husband into politics two decades ago _ into a tragic icon known around the world. (Jussi Nukari/ Lehtikuva via AP)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018 1:00 am

China lets Nobel widow leave after 8-year arrest

Associated Press

BERLIN – In fall 2010, Liu Xia traveled to a prison in northeast China to tell her husband, dissident intellectual Liu Xiaobo, that he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. That was the last time she left home as a free woman.

Until this week. China on Tuesday allowed Liu Xia to move to Berlin, ending an eight-year house arrest that drew global criticism and made the soft-spoken, chain-smoking 57-year-old poet a tragic icon known around the world.

Liu's friends Gao Yu, a journalist in Beijing, and Wu Yangwei said Liu Xia took a Finnair flight to Berlin on Tuesday morning.

“I hope that being in a free country will allow Liu Xia to heal her long-standing traumas and wounds,” Wu said by phone from China.

Liu Xia reluctantly followed her late husband into politics two decades ago. In 2009, China sentenced Liu Xiaobo to 11 years in prison on a charge of inciting subversion after he helped write Charter 08, a manifesto calling for political and economic liberalization.

That sentence, and his wife's subsequent detention in her home, had become glaring symbols of the authoritarian government's determination to prevent the couple from becoming an inspiration to other Chinese.

The release of Liu Xia, who was never charged with a crime, results from years of campaigning by Western governments and activists and comes just days before the one-year anniversary Friday of Liu Xiaobo's death.

Liu Xia arrived in Germany while Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is on an official state visit to the country, which is among the ones that urged Beijing to free her.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets regularly with dissidents during visits to China and had raised Liu Xia's case with Chinese officials, including during a visit in May, people familiar with the matter said.