China has allowed Liu Xia, the widow of the late Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Liu Xiaobo, to leave the country following nearly eight years under de facto house arrest.
China's foreign ministry has confirmed that Liu Xia has left the country to seek medical treatment in Germany.
Friends and family quoted in media reports say she boarded a Finnair flight in Beijing on Tuesday for Europe. The South China Morning Post says she is on her way to Berlin:
"While precise details of Liu's flight out of China are unknown, the only Finnair flight that left Beijing Capital International Airport bound for Berlin on Tuesday morning was Flight AY86, which took off at 10.55am, according to the airport's website.
It is expected to land in Finland at 2.15pm local time (7.15pm Beijing time) from where Liu will get a connecting flight to Berlin."
Liu's release coincides with a visit to Germany by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. The Post says he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed her release on medical grounds.
Berlin and other Western governments have been pushing for China to allow Liu Xia to leave the country ever since her husband died of liver cancer a year ago this month in prison. He had been sentenced to 11 years in 2009 on subversion charges. His wife was put under de facto house arrest almost immediately after he was awarded his Nobel in 2010.
Liu Xia is a poet and artist. Her friends say her inability to leave her home has taken a toll on her mental health, especially following her husband's death. In a recording made public in May, Liu suggested she was losing hope of leaving the country.
A social media post written by her brother and verified by the Associated Press offered thanks to those who have cared for her and expressed hope that "from now on, her life is peaceful and happy."