Chinese political prisoner and Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo dies at age 61
SHENYANG, CHINA — Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, China’s most prominent political prisoner, died Thursday at a hospital in the country’s northeast, officials said. He was 61.
Liu had been hospitalized for advanced liver cancer diagnosed in prison in May. In an online announcement, the judicial bureau of the city of Shenyang said he died of multiple organ failure.
Liu’s supporters and foreign governments had urged China to allow him to receive treatment abroad, but Chinese authorities insisted he was receiving the best care possible for a disease that had spread throughout his body.
Liu was imprisoned for the first time in connection with the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while serving his fourth and final prison sentence, for inciting subversion by advocating sweeping political reforms and greater human rights in China.
“What I demanded of myself was this: whether as a person or as a writer, I would lead a life of honesty, responsibility, and dignity,” Liu wrote in “I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement,” which he had hoped to read out in court when being sentenced in 2009. He was not permitted to do so and received an 11-year prison sentence.
He came to prominence following the 1989 pro-democracy protests centred in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, which he called the “major turning point” in 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.
Liu became one of hundreds of Chinese imprisoned for crimes linked to the demonstrations. It was only the first of four stays in prisons owing to his ideology.
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 in China.
In 2010, while Liu was serving his sentence in a prison in a small city in China’s northeast, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, with the Norwegian-based committee citing Liu’s “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” The award enraged China’s government, which condemned it as a political farce. Within days, Liu’s wife, artist and poet Liu Xia, was put under house arrest.