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Liu Xiaobo

Liu Xia’s friends ‘planning meeting’ with former German president Joachim Gauck about her brother’s case

They say they’re trying to arrange for her to meet the retired political heavyweight to see if he can help push for Liu Hui to be allowed to leave China

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 July, 2018, 9:32pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 July, 2018, 10:10pm

Friends of Liu Xia, widow of dissident and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, say they are making arrangements for her to meet a retired German political heavyweight to see whether he can assist in her brother’s case.

Liu Xia was freed from eight years under house arrest on Tuesday and allowed to leave China, but her brother Liu Hui was barred from joining her in Berlin.

One of her friends said they had approached Joachim Gauck, who was the German president from 2012 to 2017, to meet Liu Xia.

“Gauck is very respected in the German political circle and by the public. With his help, there may be more pressure within Germany to do more to help get Liu Hui out,” the family friend said.

Volker Stanzel, a former German ambassador to China, agreed with that approach, saying it would be appropriate for Liu Xia to play a part in lobbying German politicians to push for her brother to be allowed to leave China.

“If she asks the German government to support her brother’s wish to depart from China ... there has got to be someone with authority who knows her brother – and there is no one better than herself – to give good reasons,” Stanzel said.

The family friend said it was not clear whether Gauck would be able to arrange a meeting between Liu Xia and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which could be deemed by the German leader as too sensitive.

Liu Xia spends first night of freedom with friends in Berlin after being released by China

Gauck, who has long criticised China’s treatment of the Liu family, attended a commemorative event in Berlin on Friday marking the first anniversary of Liu Xiaobo’s death.

Liu Xia was not at the event but her close friend Liao Yiwu – a dissident poet based in Berlin – said she was “very touched” when shown videos from the service, which was also attended by Nobel Literature Prize winner Herta Mueller.

“It was a very special moment for her – and her current situation would have made Xiaobo very happy,” he said.

Liu Xia misses memorial service for husband Liu Xiaobo in Berlin

Liao agreed that it would be helpful to get Gauck, who is a friend of his, involved in the case.

“Still, Liu Xia’s priority at the moment is to recover physically and mentally first,” he said.

China’s foreign ministry on Tuesday said the 57-year-old poet, painter and photographer was allowed to leave China for health reasons, and Liu Xia had gone to Germany to “treat her illness according to her wishes”. She is said to be taking medication for clinical depression.

Liao said Liu Xia did not go to the anniversary event on Friday partly because she feared how her brother would be treated by Beijing if she began making high-profile appearances overseas – but her own health was also a major reason.

“The fact is, Liu Xia is still too weak to be put under such intense media attention,” Liao said. “That was also the advice of her German doctors.”

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

Liu Xia was placed under house arrest in 2010 – when her husband Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while in prison – but was never charged with any crime. Liu Xiaobo was jailed for 11 years in 2009 on subversion charges after co-authoring a petition known as Charter 08 calling for sweeping political reforms in China. They were reunited in late June last year at a hospital in Shenyang after the pro-democracy campaigner was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and released from jail on medical parole. He died on July 13 last year aged 61.