BEIJING: Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo, has left China and is on a plane out of the country, according to a friend familiar with the situation.
Liu has been held under de facto house arrest -- despite no charges -- since 2010, when her husband received the Nobel Peace Prize, in a move that angered Beijing.
"Today at around 11:00 am, Liu Xia took a Finnair flight and left Beijing," friend Ye Du said. Liu Xiaobo, a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, died last year while serving an 11-year jail sentence for "subversion", making him the first Nobel laureate to die in custody since the era of Nazi Germany.
Liu faced daily restrictions on movement and surveillance even after her husband's death, although Chinese authorities maintained she was free. Several Western diplomats tried to visit her at her Beijing apartment in May amid concerns over her psychological health but were refused entry without explanation.
In an emotional phone call with her close friend Chinese writer Liao Yiwu recently, Liu Xia said, "they should add a line to the constitution: 'Loving Liu Xiaobo is a serious crime -- it's a life sentence'."
The German embassy had offered in April to help Liu Xia travel to Germany but the move did not take place. The move comes a day after Chinese premier Li Keqiang met German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In May, dozens of the world's leading writers and artists, from Michael Chabon to Paul Auster and Khaled Hosseini, called on China to release her to seek medical treatment abroad. AFP