Liu Xia, wife of late Nobel Peace Prize victor, leaves China

Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, has left China for Europe after eight years under de facto house arrest.

Ms Liu was placed under house arrest days after her late husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize - an honour which infuriated the Chinese government.

The Chinese government has confirmed the widow of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has left China for Germany, saying Liu Xia is seeking medical treatment.

Liu Xiaobo was sentenced in 2009 on charges of inciting subversion of state power after he co-authored a manifesto calling for political change in China.

"Liu Xia should have been able to live and grieve freely while her husband was wrongly detained and when he grew ill and died", said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. The Chinese authorities tried to silence her, but she stood tall for human rights. "I hope from now on her life is peaceful and happy".

The German embassy had offered in April to help Liu Xia travel to Germany but the move did not take place.

In a rare case of a top Chinese official taking questions about a sensitive matter, Premier Li Keqiang was asked about Liu's case during a briefing as part of a May visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Western diplomats and rights groups had earlier hoped to be able to get Liu Hui out of China as well.

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"Liu Xia has been suffering from depression and under tight surveillance for so many years", he said.

"If I can't leave, I'll die in my home", Liu Xia told her close friend Liao Yiwu, a writer who documented their phone conversation in an essay published in May. "Liu Xia might not be able to speak much for fear of her brother's safety", he said.

While precise details of Liu's flight out of China are unknown, the only Finnair flight that left Beijing Capital International Airport bound for Berlin on Tuesday morning was Flight AY86, which took off at 10.55am, according to the airport's website. The last time China let a high-profile political prisoner leave was in 2012, when blind activist Chen Guangcheng was allowed to fly to NY after escaping from house arrest and hiding for six days in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

Liu Xiaobo died of liver cancer last July while under government custody, prompting a new round of global calls for his widow's release.

In a letter published past year, Liu Xia wrote to a friend that she was "going mad" in her isolation, according to the AFP news agency.

Rights groups and Western nations had been raising pressure on Beijing over Liu Xia in recent months, as fears grew among rights groups that she might never be able to leave and live overseas, a wish she had made clear.

Liu Xiaobo's prison sentence turned out to be for life. He was the first Nobel Peace Prize victor to die in custody since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky in 1938.

Eve said the government sought to "make it seem as though it is a country ruled according to law when everything about her case has shown demonstrably that it is not". "She has been an unwilling symbol of the brutality of China's treatment of human rights activists".

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