China: Liu Xia free and on her way to Germany

If the reports that she's been released to Germany are true, it would mark an end to almost a decade of unofficial detention for Liu Xia-who has been kept under strict state surveillance since Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2010.

"Today at around 11:00 am, Liu Xia took a Finnair flight and left Beijing", friend Ye Du said.

China is expected to use her brother as a "hostage" to make Liu Xia shy away from criticizing the Chinese government or the ruling Communist Party overseas, some foreign affairs experts say. "It would be most callous of the Chinese authorities to use Liu Xia's relatives to put pressure on Liu Xia to prevent her from speaking out in future".

She left China on Tuesday for Berlin, Germany, her brother Liu Hui said in a message to friends shared with CNN. Thanks to everyone who has helped and cared for her these few years. "I hope from now on her life is peaceful and happy".

Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning political dissident Liu Xiaobo, left China for Germany on Tuesday, a move welcomed by rights groups that had long pressed for her release from what was effectively house arrest.

Mr Liu died of liver cancer last July while under government custody, prompting fresh global calls for his wife's release. He was a writer, critic and activist who called for political reforms and an end to one-party rule in China.

Liu's release coincides with a visit to Germany by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Berlin has been pushing China to let Liu leave the country following the death of her husband. "Only by taking medication can I fall asleep and stop looking at this painful world", she said, according to Ye.

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Some have expressed fears that authorities are using him as a "hostage" to ensure that Liu Xia will not say anything to displease the Chinese government while she is overseas. The country has been raising human rights issues and the situation of Liu Xia on multiple occasions with China, a major trade partner and investor.

Guards ate and slept outside her door, driving away well-wishers, activists, journalists and diplomats - a slow-burning ordeal worse than death, she said in a rare recording that emerged in May. Her friends say her inability to leave her home has taken a toll on her mental health, especially following her husband's death. However, it's still worrying that her brother Liu Hui is still kept in China.

Friends and family quoted in media reports say she boarded a Finnair flight in Beijing on Tuesday for Europe.

Chinese authorities had consistently maintained Liu was free but imposed severe restrictions on her movement and she was under constant surveillance.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing that Ms Liu had gone to Germany to seek medical treatment in accordance with her wishes.

Liu Xiaobo was a Chinese poet who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.

Liu Xiaobo was only the second Nobel Peace Prize victor to die in police custody, and human rights group say that shows the Communist Party's increasingly hard line.

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