Germany said Thursday it would welcome the widow of Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo after a recording was released of her crying in desperation and indicating that she has given up hope of being able to leave China.
"If I can't leave, I'll die in my home," Liu Xia, the widow, said during a recent phone call with her close friend Liao Yiwu, a writer who documented their conversation in an essay published Wednesday.
"Xiaobo is gone, and there's nothing in the world for me now," Liu said tearfully. "It's easier to die than live. Using death to defy could not be any simpler for me."
Liu has never been charged with a crime, but has been kept guarded and largely isolated since her husband, Liu Xiaobo, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his human rights activism in 2010. He was still serving a prison sentence for inciting subversion of state power when he died of liver cancer last summer.
Germany's Foreign Ministry told The Associated Press on Thursday that the German government has been discussing Liu's case with China and "will continue to do so."
"According to the information available to us, Liu Xia has not been accused of any crime," the ministry said in emailed comments. "She should be allowed to travel, also for humanitarian considerations. Should she choose to come to Germany, Liu Xia would be welcome here at any time."
Writing from Germany where he is living in exile, Liao said that Chinese state security agents repeatedly promised Liu Xia that she would be able to leave the country and seek treatment for the clinical depression that has long ailed her.
Germany was prepared to take her in, according to Liao: "In early April the German Foreign Minister had already made specific arrangements, including as to how they'd not alert the news media, how they'd covertly collect Liu Xia at the airport, and how they'd arrange her treatment and recovery and more."
But hopes for a quiet departure have not borne fruit.
Hu Jia, a dissident and longtime friend of the Lius, described Liao's essay as a "counterattack" against Chinese authorities prompted by an "awakening" after hearing for months that Liu would soon be released.
Corroborating Liao's account, Hu said Liu had initially been told by security agents to wait until after the 19th Party Congress last fall, when President Xi Jinping secured a second term at the helm of the ruling Communist Party. Then, Hu said, they told her to wait until after the meeting of the ceremonial legislature in March.
During this time, Liu's supporters kept a low profile because government agents told them that remaining silent about the case would lead to a solution, Hu told the AP.
"Why did Mr. Liao call Liu Xia on April 30? Because at that point it was already clear that hope was shattered," Hu said. "We were duped."
When asked at a regular press briefing whether Liu will be able to leave the country, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she was "not aware of the situation."
"But Liu Xia is a Chinese citizen. The competent Chinese authority will handle the relevant matter in accordance with laws," Hua said, repeating a statement often used by China to address Liu's case.