Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate and dissident Liu Xiaobo died on Thursday of terminal cancer at a hospital in the country’s north, authorities said. Liu, 61, died after spending almost nine years in prison, Efe news reported.
In 2009, Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison on charges of inciting subversion after he helped pen a political manifesto urging the Communist regime to initiate democratic reforms.
He was released on medical parole and was being treated at a hospital in Shenyang city. The activist’s wife, Liu Xia, was placed under house arrest.
Several countries including the US were eager to treat Liu but China termed those calls as “interference in its domestic affairs”.
Since his release in late June, the international media relentlessly called for Liu to be flown abroad for medical treatment but officials stuck to the official Chinese line of “non-interference in its domestic affairs”.
The Global Times daily, affiliated to the ruling Communist Party, had also dismissed requests from human rights organisations for Liu’s treatment abroad, claiming that “Western forces” were politicising the issue for ulterior motives.
“What they care about is not Liu’s treatment, but transferring him abroad. This is a political charade,” it said earlier this week.
Human Rights Watch condemned the Chinese government’s treatment of Liu, noting that the last Nobel Peace laureate who died in state custody was pacifist Carl von Ossietzky in Nazi Germany in 1938.
“The Chinese government’s arrogance, cruelty and callousness are shocking — but Liu’s struggle for a rights-respecting, democratic China will live on,” Sophie Richardson, the China Director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
Judicial authorities in Shenyang, where Liu was being treated, said he was given emergency treatment beginning Monday after his condition continued to deteriorate.
In 2010, Liu received the Nobel Peace Prize for his activism in favour of democracy in China. He also played a significant role in the Tiananmen protests of June 1989 which ended in bloodshed when they were quashed by troops.
Liu and other activists negotiated the safe exit of several hundred demonstrators and was credited with saving the protesters’ lives.
His campaign for the freeing of those detained during Tiananmen landed him in a labour camp in north-eastern China for three years but he was permitted to marry poet Liu Xia there in 1996.