Widow of Chinese Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo arrives in Berlin

2017 during a ceremony for her late husband

2017 during a ceremony for her late husband

Her departure from Beijing came three days before the anniversary of her husband's death in a Chinese jail and was a diplomatic coup for Angela Merkel, who has regularly advocated for Ms Liu and other Chinese dissidents at the highest levels in Beijing.

"There is still the sword of Damocles hanging over Liu Hui's head, should his sister start shooting her mouth off over in Europe", Hu said. "If I'm dead, it'll all be done with", she told exiled Chinese writer Liao Yiwu, who released an audio clip of their phone conversation the following month.

She left China on Tuesday for Berlin, Germany, her brother Liu Hui said in a message to friends shared with CNN.

As The Diplomat noted earlier, Liu Xia was reportedly on the verge of a breakdown during her house arrest in Beijing.

"It is a tremendous relief that Liu Xia has been able to leave China for freedom overseas", Richardson said in a statement on the HRW website. Liu Xia, though never formally charged with a crime, had been under strict house arrest.

Liu Xia arrived in Germany while Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is on an official state visit to the country, which is among the ones that urged Beijing to free her.

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.

He was first imprisoned in connection with the violently quashed 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 for his writings during his final 11-year-sentence.

Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 8, 2010.

She was cut off from friends and family at her home in Beijing, with guards preventing a Sky crew from visiting.

Her brother was convicted on fraud charges over a real estate abuse in 2013, a case activists believed was retribution against the family, and a way to pressure Liu Xia.

China's foreign ministry confirmed on Tuesday that Liu Xia had left for health reasons and that she had gone to Germany to "treat her illness according to her wishes".

She departed Beijing overnight and is traveling to Berlin, according to her attorney, Jared Genser, who credited President Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, "and so many others in the global community who helped make today possible".

China had criticized calls by Western governments for Liu's release as interference in its domestic affairs and insisted that Liu Xia was free.

She was an effervescent young poet, painter and photographer; he a public intellectual.

It's also a big win for Germany, one of the few countries allowed to send a doctor to China a year ago to examine Liu Xiaobo. China's deteriorating rights record is also being felt beyond its borders as it seeks to undermine global human rights institutions.

A petite woman with a shaved head and glasses, Liu Xia has been seen as "the most important link" between Liu Xiaobo and the outside world.

Liu Xia was on a Finnair flight bound for Helsinki that left Beijing at around 11 a.m. local time, Ye Du, a writer and friend, told Reuters. "The Chinese authorities tried to silence her, but she stood tall for human rights".

But he said great anger remained among Liu Xia's supporters and rights campaigners.

"It's easier to die than live".

Last year, she appeared pale, gaunt and sombre in images released by the authorities as she cared for Liu Xiaobo just before his death from liver cancer in a hospital under police custody.

A successful artist and poet, Liu told Associated Press reporters during a visit to her home in 2012 that she had expected China would punish her for her husband's Nobel award. "She has been an unwilling symbol of the brutality of China's treatment of human rights activists".

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