Liu Xia, widow of late dissident Liu Xiaobo, freed in China

Liu flies to Berlin for medical treatment after eight years under house arrest

Liu Xia, the widow of the late human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, has been released after eight years under house arrest and has flown to Berlin.

The 57-year-old poet, painter and photographer took a Finnair flight to the German capital on Tuesday. Her release was welcomed by friends and activists.

"Liu Xia has indeed flown to Berlin. This time there is no doubt ... I am so, so, so happy. Finally, finally Xia is coming today," the dissident writer Liao Yiwu, who lives in Berlin, posted on Facebook.

Ms Liu landed at in Berlin’s Tegel airport at about 5pm local time. She left the airport by a private exit to circumvent crowds of waiting reporters and activists. German foreign minister Heiko Maas announced her arrival on Twitter.


The foreign ministry in Beijing confirmed that she had left the country "for medical treatment".

Ms Liu suffers from deep clinical depression and she was quoted in April as saying during a phone conversation with Mr Liao that she would rather die than live in captivity.

Liu Xia was placed under house arrest after Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010 in jail. He was jailed for co-authoring a petition known as Charter 08 seeking political reform. She had been held under close watch by state security agents and could only be reached by her closest friends and family by phone.

"I'm really happy to see that Liu Xia can finally leave China. She has suffered too much over the years. I hope that she can lead a good life in Germany, " Patrick Poon, China researcher at Amnesty International, told The Irish Times.

“It’s still worrying that her brother Liu Hui is in China and might be still under tight surveillance,” said Mr Poon.

On the WeChat social network, her brother Liu Hui said his sister was “beginning a new life”.

Liu Xiaobo’s death from liver cancer in hospital last year made him the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in custody since the German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky died in Nazi custody in 1938.

News that Liu Xia had been freed came as Chinese premier Li Keqiang was on a visit to Germany. He met chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday.

Dr Merkel had repeatedly called for her release and the German government had been in intensive talks with Beijing to allow her to travel overseas, but there had been numerous delays, usually attributed to high-profile political meetings in China.

Traditionally the Chinese government has allowed high-profile dissidents to enter exile overseas, citing medical concerns. Many have settled in the German capital in recent years.

July 13th marks the first anniversary of Liu Xiaobo’s death and overseas Chinese activists are planning to hold a remembrance meeting in the Gethsamene church in Berlin.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing