Beijing (dpa) - Liu Xia, the widow of Nobel Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, was allowed to leave China on Tuesday for “medical treatment in Germany," China's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
The release comes amid speculation that her departure may have been linked to high-level diplomatic meetings.
“Liu Xia went to Germany for medical treatment according to her own will. It is no connections with the current important leaders visiting,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Tuesday.
Liu Xia, 57, is currently en route to Berlin after she departed on a Finnair flight to Europe at 11 am (0300 GMT) on Tuesday.
Her departure from China, where she has spent the past eight years under house arrest, comes the day after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin for high-level trade talks.
Germany has previously said it would welcome Liu Xia, who had expressed a desire to leave China following her husband’s death at age 61 almost exactly one year ago.
“It is wonderful news that Liu Xia is finally free and that her persecution and illegal detention at the hands of the Chinese authorities has come to an end, nearly one year since Liu Xiaobo’s untimely and undignified death,” Patrick Poon, China researcher at Amnesty International said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Liu Xia never gave up on her wrongfully imprisoned late husband, and for this she was cruelly punished. The Chinese authorities tried to silence her, but she stood tall for human rights.”
Liu Xia has been living under house arrest and constant surveillance since her husband became the first Chinese citizen to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. She has never been charged with a crime.
In recent months, friends and human rights organizations have expressed concern for her mental health due to her isolation and grief due to her husband’s death.
Amnesty International reported that Liu told a friend in Germany in April, "If I can’t leave, I’ll die in my home. Xiaobo is gone, and there’s nothing for me now. It’s easier to die than live. Using death to defy could not be any simpler for me.”
Liu Xiaobo died on July 13, 2017 from advanced liver cancer, just weeks after he was released from prison. He was in the midst of serving an 11 year prison sentence handed down for co-organizing the 2008 "Charter 08" pro-democracy manifesto for China.
As a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, he followed in the footsteps of Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi and German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky in being awarded the prize while in prison because he was unable to attend the prize ceremony.
The Nobel committee praised his "long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China," which began during 1989’s Tiananmen Square democracy movement.