China frees dissident Nobel Peace laureate’s widow Liu Xia

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Beijing, July 10 (IANS) After seven years of house arrest, Liu Xia, the widow of activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, on Tuesday left for Germany.

Liu Xia had been under house arrest since 2010 when her late husband was awarded the top peace prize while serving his sentence for “anti-China” activities.

He died of cancer in 2017, becoming the first Nobel Peace Prize winner in custody since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky in 1938.

Liu Xia took a plane to Berlin at 11 a.m., family friends said. She has never been charged with any crime but said in May that she was ready to die in protest over her continued detention.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, which was cagey about the details and reasons for freeing Liu Xia, said the 57-year-old poet left for Germany for treatment of her own volition.

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“I should say Liu Xia travelled to Germany for medical treatment in accordance with her own will,” Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

Her husband, a university professor turned human rights campaigner, was jailed in 2009 on charges ofr inciting subversion.

He died of liver cancer in 2017 and his ashes were scattered at sea.

Liu Xia is said to have suffered from depression after spending years under heavy surveillance. The development came three days before the anniversary of her husband’s death.

Chinese authorities earlier maintained that the dissident’s widow was a free citizen but she faced restrictions on her movements and had been kept under surveillance.

Patrick Poon, China Researcher at the human rights group Amnesty International, said it was “wonderful news that Liu Xia was finally free and that her persecution and illegal detention at the hands of the Chinese authorities came to an end”.

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He added: “The Chinese authorities tried to silence her, but she stood tall for human rights.” Amnesty further called for an end to the harassment of Liu Xia’s family who remained in China.

–IANS

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