Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner and political dissident Liu Xiaobo, has arrived in the German capital, Berlin.
Despite facing no charges, the 57-year-old poet had endured heavy restrictions on her movements since 2010 when her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize – an award that infuriated Beijing.
China’s Foreign Ministry said she had been allowed to leave for “medical treatment in Germany”.
Liu flew via Helsinki to Berlin, where she arrived just days before the first anniversary of her husband’s death from liver cancer.
She landed at Tegel airport at about 15:00 GMT and quickly boarded a black van, without speaking to several dozen waiting journalists or activists holding “Welcome Liu Xia” signs.
Liu had become a cause celebre and was seen as a test case for China’s attitude to human rights, with activists and foreign powers urging Beijing to allow her to leave the country.
Her husband Liu Xiaobo, a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, died last year while serving an 11-year jail sentence for “subversion”, the first Nobel laureate to die in custody since the Nazi era.
In an emotional phone call with her friend Liao recently, Liu said, “they should add a line to the constitution: ‘Loving Liu Xiaobo is a serious crime – it’s a life sentence’.”
Speaking to AFP news agency before her departure, close friend Ye Du said Liu was suffering from “very severe” depression, adding she would “sometimes faint” and was taking medicine to sleep.
“I can’t fall asleep. Only by taking medication can I fall asleep and stop looking at this painful world,” she said, according to Ye.
Chinese authorities had consistently maintained Liu was free but imposed severe restrictions on her movement and she was under constant surveillance.
In May, several foreign diplomats who tried to visit her at her apartment amid concerns over her health were denied access.
Hua Chunying, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, said that Liu’s travel to Germany for medical treatment was “of her own free will”.
Patrick Poon from Amnesty International said it was “really wonderful that Liu Xia is finally able to leave China after suffering so much all these years.”
However, Poon voiced concern for her brother Liu Hui who is still in China and said she “might not be able to speak much for fear of her brother’s safety”.
Liu was believed to be reluctant to leave China over her family’s safety.