The poet and widow of the Nobel peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo has at last won freedom, showing that pressing human rights can still make a difference
The poet Liu Xia, who flew to freedom in Germany on Tuesday, has never been charged with or even accused of an offence. As she once explained, her crime was loving Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel peace laureate who died of cancer last July, while serving 11 years over his call for democratic reform. China said that Ms Liu enjoyed “all freedoms in accordance with the law”; friends described almost eight years of house arrest in such punitive conditions that Ms Liu said dying was easier than living. Whether she will address such matters publicly is unclear, not least because her brother remains in China.
Her release came hours after the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, met Angela Merkel and, strikingly, as China courts European support in its battle against Donald Trump’s expanding trade war. It reflects Germany’s strong and persistent advocacy at the highest level, rather than a change in Chinese attitudes. This week marks the third anniversary of a sweeping crackdown on lawyers and activists (Mrs Merkel met the wife of the human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, who has not heard from him since he vanished, on a visit to China earlier this year). Today, a court jailed the democracy activist Qin Yongmin for 13 years for subversion. The north-west region of Xinjiang has become a “digital police state”, with tens of thousands of Uighurs reportedly sent to re-education camps and their children to de facto orphanages.