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Widow of Chinese Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo arrives in Berlin

AFP  |  Berlin 

Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel dissident Xiaobo, arrived in after she was released from years of de facto house arrest in

Despite facing no charges, the 57-year-old had endured heavy restrictions on her movements since 2010 when her husband won the -- an award that infuriated

After being allowed to leave China, flew via to Berlin, where she arrived just days before

Berlin-based dissident and German Nobel laureate were among a dozen people waiting to greet her at the airport, shouting out her name from the viewing terrace as she emerged from the aircraft.

But Liu immediately boarded a black van parked on the airfield tarmac and was whisked away without making any remarks.

Liao had earlier voiced his joy on Twitter, saying: "I am so, so, so happy! Finally, finally, Xia is coming today!!" Liu had become a cause celebre and was seen as a test case for China's attitude to human rights, with activists and foreign powers urging to allow her to leave the country.

Her husband Liu Xiaobo, a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, died last year of liver cancer while serving an 11-year sentence for "subversion".

In an emotional phone call with Liao recently, Liu said, "They should add a line to the constitution: 'Loving is a serious crime -- it's a life sentence'."

With Beijing's rights record in the spotlight, a court in sentenced another prominent Chinese to 13 years in jail for "subversion", just hours after left the country.

Qin Yongmin, 64, was first jailed as a "counter-revolutionary" from 1981-1989 and has already spent a total of 22 years in prison.

Close friend Ye Du, speaking to before Liu's departure, said she was suffering from "very severe" depression, adding she would "sometimes faint" and was taking medicine to sleep.

Another friend who has spoken to her several times said she was in "bad shape, physically and psychologically".

She was finally given a passport last week, this friend, who did not wish to be named, told

"I hope can find some personal peace and restore her health in Germany," said UN for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, who called her fate in recent years "nothing short of tragic".

Chinese authorities had consistently maintained Liu was free but imposed severe restrictions on her movement and kept her under constant surveillance. In May, several foreign diplomats who tried to visit Liu at her apartment amid concerns over her health were denied access.

Hua Chunying, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, said Liu's travel to for medical treatment was "of her own free will".

welcomed the decision to release Liu "from house arrest" and allow her to leave "as she long wished".

"We urge China to release all prisoners of conscience and respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all," she said on from said it was "really wonderful" that Liu was finally allowed to leave.

But he voiced concern for her brother who remains in China and said she "might not be able to speak much for fear of her brother's safety". In Hong Kong, pro-democracy activists celebrated at a memorial to adorned with the couple's pictures.

"I'm in a sea of joy," said veteran activist "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung as he drank a toast to her.

apartment building on Tuesday, two men guarded the entrance and questioned anyone who came near while at least two others patrolled the park outside.

But despite heavy security, gained access to her apartment on Monday and saw little sign she was preparing for an imminent departure. Liu declined to give a formal interview, citing fears for her younger brother.

Pictures of the couple in happier times lined the walls.

Liu's departure came during a visit by Chinese to Berlin, where he met German Angela Merkel, although a Chinese denied any "association or link between this incident and the visit".

Merkel has spoken out frequently on Chinese human rights abuses and is believed to have pushed for Liu's release during her May visit to Beijing, where she met the wives of detained human rights lawyers.

Analysts, however, pointed to the upcoming as a reason for the timing.

"Perhaps the realised that as the anniversary of Liu Xiaobo's death approaches, keeping his widow under house arrest simply shows the Chinese to be petty, cruel and vindictive -- not the image it's trying to project to the world," said from

Others said Beijing might be trying to curry favour with Western powers ahead of an EU-China summit next week, as China needs in the trade battle with the

A said: "It has to do with China's image at a time when it is fighting a trade war with the " "China needs to let some steam off and it is conducting a charm offensive targeted at the rest of the world." This however does not herald an improvement in human rights, this said, adding that on the contrary, "we can see it is getting worse".

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, July 11 2018. 09:15 IST