Sweet freedom after Nobel winner's widow flies away

Top News | Phoenix UnPhoenix Un and agencies 11 Jul 2018

A visibly overjoyed widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo spread her arms and grinned widely as she emerged from a flight at an airport in Finland - free from house arrest after eight years.

Liu Xia, a bespectacled poet, was photographed smiling as she entered the Helsinki terminal in a gray T-shirt under a black and white knit cardigan.

Chow Po-chung, an associate professor at Chinese University, also posted a photo of a smiling Liu on Facebook as she waited for a connecting flight to Berlin.

Political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said Beijing chose to release Liu due to its trade war with the United States.

Lau said the timing of her release coincides with Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Germany, as well as next week's annual summit between China and the European Union in Beijing.

"The current strategy of China is allying Europe against the United States, as both China and Europe have trade disputes with the United State," Lau said.

"Germany played a main role in the release of Liu, and she was played as a card to strengthen the Sino-Germany relationship, or else why release her now?"

He also attributed her release to the internal pressure within China since it has virtually been a year since her husband died on July 13, 2017.

However, Lau said Liu Xia's brother, Liu Hui, is still in the mainland - and that will restrain her from "speaking too much."

Lau added: "Liu Xia loves her brother and it would reduce the explosiveness of Liu Xia's words overseas."

Albert Ho Chun-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, agreed that Liu Hui would be used as a "hostage" to restrain Liu Xia from launching a verbal tirade against Beijing.

Despite this, Ho expressed relief at Liu being released.

He also agreed that China wants to alleviate the pressure ahead of the first anniversary of Liu Xiaobo's death.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the release of Liu Xia manifested humanitarianism and acknowledged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' remarks that she traveled for medical treatment in accordance with her will.

Three pro-democracy advocates held a news conference by a bronze statue of Liu Xiaobo which they unveiled last month.

Leung Kwok-hung said he was "nearly crying" when he heard that Liu boarded a plane.

Leung said: "It was such good news for us since we have been here for more than one month to collect signatures for her release."

phoenix.un@singtaonewscorp.com

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