Liu Xia, widow of Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, arrived in Germany on Tuesday after finally being able to leave China, having spent the past eight years under strict house arrest.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters Tuesday Liu Xia left Beijing to seek medical treatment. Her brother, Liu Hui, posted on social media that his sister had left China “to start her new life” in Europe.
A U.S. State Department official said, “The United States welcomes the news that Chinese authorities have released Liu Xia … from house arrest and allowed her to leave China as she long wished. We continue to call on the Chinese government to release all prisoners of conscience, and to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all individuals.”
Republican Senator Marco Rubio, chairman of a congressional commission on China, told VOA Mandarin, “Obviously she should have never been detained. We are happy for her release.”
Liu Xia was put under house arrest in 2010 when her husband — prominent writer, literary critic, and intellectual Liu Xiaobo — won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Liu was arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 11 years in prison on charges of subversion for helping write Charter 08, a political manifesto calling for an end to China’s one-party system.
He died a year ago of liver cancer at 61, making him the first Nobel laureate to die in state custody since renown pacifist Carl von Ossietzky died of tuberculosis in 1938 in Berlin under the Nazi regime.
Liu Xia’s release also coincides with this week’s visit to Germany by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Western diplomats had raised concerns about the effects of her strict confinement on her psychological health.
Chinese authorities had assigned round-the-clock surveillance on her Beijing home, and restricted her movements and contacts with the outside world, despite the government’s insistence that she was free.
“It is a tremendous relief that Liu Xia has been able to leave China for freedom abroad,” the China director at Human Rights Watch Sophie Richardson says. “Ever since her late husband received the Nobel Peace Prize while in a Chinese prison, Liu Xia was also unjustly detained. The German government deserves credit for its sustained pressure and hard work to gain Liu Xia’s release.”
The president of the pro free speech Independent Chinese PEN Center, Liao Tianqi, said German officials will try to protect Liu from public attention to allow her to regain her health.
“What she is going to do in the future is up to her to decide. I think people should understand she is not a political figure, not an activist. She was pushed to this position and had to face the public. Judging from her own personality, I think she absolutely doesn’t want to play such a role.”
VOA Mandarin Service congressional correspondent Yihua Lee and Miao Yu contributed to this report.