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Outspoken Chinese author leaves for Germany

BEIJING -- An outspoken Chinese writer and government critic has left his homeland for Germany after police repeatedly threatened him with imprisonment to prevent him from publishing any more of his controversial works overseas.

Liao Yiwu arrived in Berlin two days ago at the end of a secretive journey that included transfers in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi and Warsaw, Poland, the writer said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

“I feel so much more relaxed now that I am in a place where I can speak freely and publish freely,” Liao said. “I am in a very good mood now.”

The writer said police in China had visited him often in recent months to deliver veiled threats that if he published any more works abroad, he would be jailed. The Sichuan-based writer was also banned from leaving China to attend a literary festival in Australia in March and removed from a plane in the southwestern city of Chengdu in February on his way to Germany for Europe's largest literary festival.

The police intimidation of Liao appeared to be part of one of the Chinese government's broadest campaigns of repression in years, which started in February as dozens of activists, lawyers and intellectuals were detained, arrested or disappeared in Beijing's bid to prevent the growth of an Arab-style protest movement.

Calls to the press office of the Sichuan province public security bureau rang unanswered Friday.

Liao and his work have been under government scrutiny ever since he publicly mourned those killed during a military crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Recordings he made of himself wailing and reading his poem about the deaths, “Massacre,” became popular and he was sent to prison for four years.

The writer said he had no immediate plans to return to China and would focus on getting new books published — including a memoir of his experience as a political prisoner.

“Before I came out, the police talked to me many times, saying that I am not allowed to publish,” Liao said. “My publisher was worried I would be taken away, so due to considerations for my safety, they postponed (the memoir) three times. Now that I have arrived here, they can publish it.”

The author is most known for “The Corpse Walker,” a series of interviews with people living in the margins of Chinese society, including a professional mourner, a political prisoner and a public toilet manager.

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 Outspoken Chinese author leaves for Germany 
In this Friday, June 6, 2008 file photo, Chinese poet and novelist Liao Yiwu, left, talks with a temple keeper at the earthquake-damaged Gu Temple in Jiezi town of China's Sichuan Province. (AP)

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