No­bel lau­re­ate Liu Xiaobo dies in prison

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

Im­pris­oned for all the seven years since he was awarded the No­bel Peace Prize, Liu Xiaobo never re­nounced the pur­suit of hu­man rights in China, in­sist­ing on liv­ing a life of “hon­esty, re­spon­si­bil­ity and dig­nity.” China’s most prom­i­nent po­lit­i­cal pris­oner died Thurs­day of liver can­cer at 61.

His death — at a hospi­tal in the coun­try’s north­east, where he’d been trans­ferred after be­ing di­ag­nosed — trig­gered an out­pour­ing of dis­may among his friends and sup­port­ers, who lauded his courage and de­ter­mi­na­tion.

“There are only two words to de­scribe how we feel right now: grief and fury,” fam­ily friend and ac­tivist Wu Yang­wei, bet­ter known by his pen­name Ye Du, said by phone. “The only way we can grieve for Xiaobo and bring his soul some com­fort is to work even harder to try to keep his in­flu­ence alive.”

The 1989 pro-democ­racy protests cen­tred in Bei­jing’s Tianan­men Square, by Liu’s ac­count, were the “ma­jor turn­ing point” of his life.

Liu had been a vis­it­ing scholar at Columbia Univer­sity in New York, but re­turned early to China in May 1989 to join the move­ment that was sweep­ing the coun­try and which the Com­mu­nist Party re­garded as a grave chal­lenge to its author­ity.

When the gov­ern­ment sent troops and tanks into Bei­jing to quash the protests on the night of June 3-4, Liu per­suaded some stu­dents to leave the square rather than face down the army. The mil­i­tary crack­down killed hun­dreds, pos­si­bly thou­sands, of peo­ple and her­alded a more re­pres­sive era. Liu be­came one of hun­dreds of Chi­nese im­pris­oned for crimes linked to the demon­stra­tions. It was only the first of four im­pris­on­ments. His fi­nal prison sen­tence was for co-au­thor­ing “Char­ter 08,” a doc­u­ment cir­cu­lated in 2008 that called for more free­dom of ex­pres­sion, hu­man rights and an in­de­pen­dent ju­di­ciary.


Liu Xiaobo speaks dur­ing an in­ter­view at a park in Bei­jing, China, in July 2008.

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