Liu Xia, wife of late China dissident Liu Xiaobo, left for Berlin

2017 during a ceremony for her late husband

2017 during a ceremony for her late husband

57-year-old Liu Xia, a pale, bespectacled poet who had long sported a shaved haircut, is the widow of China's first Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo, who nearly a year ago passed away of liver cancer while in custody in China.

Ms Liu's departure, following a year of pressure on Beijing from activists and rights groups, comes at the end of a visit to Germany by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, during which the two countries signed commercial deals worth more than $US23 billion ($31 billion).

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying, at a regular briefing, said Liu Xia left "in accordance to her own will" for "medical treatment".

- "Very severe" depression - Speaking to AFP before her departure, close friend Ye Du told AFP that Liu was suffering from "very severe" depression, adding that she would "sometimes faint".

Liu Xiaobo died of liver cancer last July while under government custody, prompting renewed calls for Liu Xia's release.

"When I visited Xiaobo, she wouldn't get involved with our political discussions". The deaths of her father in 2016 and her mother in February previous year added to the mountain of grief Liu Xia was carrying.

Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia.

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 Xia's departure was "wonderful news" but harassment of her family remained a risk to her freedom to criticise China, Amnesty International's China researcher Patrick Poon said.

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.

Leaked audio clips earlier this year showed her to have been in a highly distressed and desperate state of mind prior to her release.

Observers and activists are celebrating the long awaited news of Liu Xia's release.

Liu Xia was never charged but was largely confined to her Beijing home.

"Liu Xia never gave up on her wrongfully imprisoned late husband, and for this she was cruelly punished".

He was last arrested for his role in creating Charter 08, a call for political changes in China.

Several well-known human rights activists and global humanitarian organizations have condemned the Chinese government's treatment of Liu Xia. "I hope too that Chinese human rights defenders, their families and lawyers, who have been deprived of their liberty for expressing critical views, will be released".

Analysts however pointed to the forthcoming anniversary of her husband's death as a reason for the timing.

As the United States on July 6 officially launched "the biggest trade war ever in economic history" (as China's Commerce Ministry referred to it), China's financial markets have been experiencing serious fluctuations. "It also takes the pressure off for the [] anniversary of Liu Xiaobo's death".

"She was just standing there alone, smoking a cigarette", Hu said.

But he said the authorities still control the fate of Liu Hui, which will likely act as a restraint on what she can do or say in Germany. "Sister has already left Beijing for Europe at noon to start her new life". Chinese authorities repeatedly declined to discuss Liu Xia's confinement, which critics say was cruel and illegal.

Liu's new-found freedom was broadly welcomed by global rights groups and the writers' organization PEN, which tweeted that it was "jubilant" at the news. He said China's constitution protected human rights.

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. We commend the leadership of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government for their role in demanding her freedom.

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