The widow of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has been allowed to leave China to seek medical treatment in Germany. The German government negotiated Liu Xia's release, whose health significantly deteriorated during almost eight years of house arrest.
Chinese authorities had consistently maintained Liu was free but imposed severe restrictions on her movement and kept her under constant surveillance. Liu Xia has never been charged with any crime. Her release comes after years of campaigning by Western governments and activists.
"I want to marry that enemy of the state!" she said shortly before the pair Wednesday in 1996 during Liu Xiaobo's stay at a labour camp, according to a biography of the dissident by Yu Jie. "She will start a new life and is grateful for all the people who have cared for her and helped her", her brother Liu Hui posted on WeChat.
As her brother remains on the mainland, Chinese authorities would "make sure that Liu Xia's behaviour overseas will meet its expectations", said Wu'er. The top - and probably the only - priority for Li's visit to Germany this time was to discuss the critical trade issue with Merkel.
"Today at around 11:00 am, Liu Xia took a Finnair flight and left Beijing", friend Ye Du said. According to Liu Xia's friends, Liu Xia had previously hoped she and Liu Hui could be allowed to leave China together. In early May, Liu told her friend during a phone conversation: "Now, I've got nothing to be afraid of".
The authorities' refusal to allow Liu Xiaobo or Liu Xia to leave China at that point prompted an global outcry.
The 57-year-old poet, painter and photographer had been under house arrest since 2010, when her husband Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while in prison.
Despite a diagnosis of late stage liver cancer and calls from the worldwide community to release him for urgent medical treatment, Liu Xiaobo died at the age of 61 while still imprisoned on July 13, 2017.
Her husband Liu Xiaobo, a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, died last year while serving an 11-year jail sentence for "subversion", the first Nobel laureate to die in custody since the Nazi Germany era.
Chinese authorities put Liu under house arrest in 2010, days after the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded her imprisoned husband, Liu Xiaobo, the Peace Prize, infuriating the Chinese government.
Since her husband's death, she has been guarded by Chinese security personnel and constantly monitored, unable to leave her house on her own, take interviews or travel. She was permitted only limited telephone calls with a small group of friends.
He was last arrested for his role in creating Charter 08, a call for political changes in China.
The Chinese government permitted the blind, activist Chen Guangcheng to travel to NY after he escaped from house arrest and hid for six days in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
"Xiaobo is gone, and there's nothing in the world for me now", Liu said tearfully.
"She was not part of our group of dissidents", Hu Jia, a Beijing-based activist and friend of Liu Xiaobo, told AFP. "But we still fear for Liu Hui, who is being kept in the country as a guarantee so that Liu Xia does not speak out overseas".
Hua denied any connection between Li Keqiang's trip and Liu's release. Her release is a testament to the power of collective voices being raised in support of those who others would brutalize into silence.
In the months since Liu Xiaobo's death, friends and supporters of Liu Xia, including United Nations human rights experts, have expressed concern about her mental health due to a series of recordings she released discussing her grief.
Liu Xia poses with a photo of her and her husband during an interview at her home in Beijing on December 6, 2012. Mario Ritter was the editor.
This story was originally reported by Gerry Shih and Tanan Wang for the Associated Press.