Liu Xia, widow of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, arrived in Europe on a flight from Beijing on Tuesday following years of de facto house arrest. 

Liu Xia. File photo: Factwire screenshot.

HKFP gathers reactions from activists and NGOs.

Albert Ho, veteran Hong Kong lawmaker:

Ho told HKFP that the authorities probably thought that, by releasing Liu Xia, they would create a big reaction, but they calculate that it would not last long.

“There are very strong elements within China who do not want to acquiesce to foreign pressures, but the problem is that they cannot keep her under house arrest… in the long term because they will face international condemnation, and they do not have an explanation, so it’s a very tricky hot potato… Apart from Liu Xia, everyone is also very worried about [detained human rights lawyer] Wang Quanzhang. We don’t know whether he is dead or alive, everyone is very worried.”

Michael Caster, human rights advocate and researcher:

Xiaowaves, a group of Liu Xiaobo’s supporters formerly known as the Freedom For Liu Xiaobo Action Group:

“[W]e take note that Liu Xia’s younger brother Liu Hui is still retained in China, serving probably as a hostage. To intimidate Liu Xia and keep her tacit on the case of Xiaobo, Liu Hui had previously been given a prison sentence of 11 years in a so-called case of fraud and deception. Although Liu Hui is now on medical parole, his prison term could be resumed any time… We call on the international community to continue with their efforts in also rescuing Liu Hui, so that Liu Xia can be freed from all apprehension and enjoy her true freedoms.”

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong:

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein:

I very much welcome the fact that Liu Xia has been permitted to leave China. Her predicament since her husband Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 has been nothing short of tragic, and her physical and mental welfare since the untimely death of Liu Xiaobo last year has been of great concern to everyone. Their story is one of great courage and great sadness.

I hope Liu Xia can find some personal peace and restore her health in Germany. 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. I share the concerns about the future of Liu Xia’s younger brother, Liu Hui,  who remains in China and hope he will be allowed to join his sister in Germany if he so wishes.

Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of free expression writers’ group PEN America

Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch:

Liu Xia should have been able to live – and grieve – freely while her husband was wrongly detained and when he grew ill and died. We hope that she is en route to freedom and hopefully a more peaceful life. President Xi Jinping should be held responsible for the extraordinary cruelty inflicted upon Liu Xia and Liu Xiaobo, and should refrain from harassing other family members.

US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert:

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China:

The Chairs welcome her long overdue freedom. She suffered so much for so long, unjustly and cruelly isolated & detained.

Free expression NGO Reporters Without Borders:

Patrick Poon, China Researcher at Amnesty International:

Liu Xia never gave up on her wrongfully imprisoned late husband, and for this she was cruelly punished. The Chinese authorities tried to silence her, but she stood tall for human rights. However, after eight years under illegal house arrest her health is a cause for genuine concern… Now, the harassment of Liu Xia’s family who remain in China must end too. It would be most callous of the Chinese authorities to use Liu Xia’s relatives to put pressure on Liu Xia to prevent her speaking out in the future.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.