Liu Xiaobo

Liu Xia told not to take drugs prescribed in China as German doctors express concern over her mental health

Widow of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo has been suffering serious depression after years under house arrest in Beijing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 12:46pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 2:33pm

German doctors treating Liu Xia, who has suffered serious depression after years of house arrest, have expressed concerns about her condition and advised her to stop taking drugs prescribed in China, according to a long-time friend of hers.

Her frail health casts serious doubts about whether she will be able to attend a public memorial ceremony for her late husband, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, in central Berlin on Friday.

Berlin-based dissident writer Liao Yiwu – who spent several hours with the widow of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo since she arrived in Germany – described her as “spiritually sound but physically weak” after what he said was a diagnosis of serious depression.

“While we were walking downstairs for dinner, Liu Xia nearly fainted,” Liao told the South China Morning Post.

“Her emotions fluctuate a lot,” he said. “She is a patient. What is most important to us, her friends, is the next step [towards her recovery].”

Liu, a poet, painter and photographer, had been banned from leaving her home in Beijing since 2010, after her husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while in prison.

Liu Xia, who has never been charged with any crime, saw her mental condition worsen after her husband died from cancer aged 61.

Earlier this year Liao heightened concerns about Liu’s well-being when he released, with her permission, a recording of a phone conversation in which she was heard crying and saying: “I’m so angry that I’m ready to die here … If I’m dead, it’ll all be done with.”

Liu Xia’s last hours in China before her flight to freedom

She was set free by Chinese government and arrived Berlin via Helsinki on Tuesday.

Her release came just hours after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the German capital.

China’s foreign ministry has said Liu was sent abroad to receive medical treatment.

“She has been asked not to take any medicines prescribed in China,” Liao said, adding that she was suffering from a “major depressive disorder” and the doctors were concerned about what the impact of attending public events would be.

Citing what doctors had told her, Liao said it would be “hard to estimate how long it would take for her to regain her health”.

Opinion: Welcome release of Liu Xia comes at a time when China needs friends

That underlined the potential problems should she attend an event in central Berlin on Friday to mark the first anniversary of Liu Xiaobo’s death from liver cancer in the city of Shenyang.

The event will be held in the Gethsemanekirche and attended by Nobel literature laureate Herta Müller and the singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann, a former East German dissident.

While a public appearance might be too overwhelming, Liu was happy to see friends, Liao said.

On Friday, Liu is expected to meet Tienchi Martin-Liao, the Germany-based president of the Independent Chinese PEN centre, a position that was once held by Liu Xiaobo.

Norwegian Nobel Committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen, when asked if she planned to visit Liu Xia in Berlin, replied: “Any contact with Liu Xia will take place in due course when she is ready.”

Stuart Lau is reporting from Berlin