In the fall of 2010, Liu Xia traveled to a prison in northeast China to tell her husband, the dissident intellectual Liu Xiaobo, that he had just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. That was the last time she left home as a free woman. Until this week. China on Tuesday allowed Liu Xia to fly to Berlin, ending an eight-year house arrest that drew international criticism and made the soft-spoken, chain-smoking 57-year-old poet with a shaven head a tragic icon known around the world. As Liu Xia came off a plane Tuesday in Helsinki, Finland to transfer to a flight to Berlin, she spread her arms and grinned widely at a waiting photographer. Her plane from Helsinki landed in the German capital a few hours later and she was seen getting into a car at Berlin's Tegel airport, the AP reports. A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said Liu left for Germany to seek "medical treatment on her own accord."
The release of Liu Xia, an artist and poet who reluctantly followed her husband into politics two decades ago and who was never charged with a crime, results from years of campaigning by Western governments and activists and comes just days before the one-year anniversary Friday of Liu Xiaobo's death. Liu's 11-year prison sentence and his wife's subsequent detention in her home had become glaring symbols of the authoritarian government's determination to prevent the couple from becoming an inspiration to other Chinese. German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets regularly with dissidents during visits to China and had raised Liu Xia's case with Chinese officials, including during a visit in May, people familiar with the matter said. "Sister has already left Beijing for Europe at noon to start her new life," wrote Liu Xia's brother, Liu Hui, on a social media site. "Thanks to everyone who has helped and cared for her these few years. I hope from now on her life is peaceful and happy." The AP has much more on Liu Xia's story.