Jailed peace lau­re­ate dies of can­cer

Liu was ‘gi­ant of hu­man rights’

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - HONG KONG

THE CHI­NESE ac­tivist and No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ate Liu Xiaobo has died at the age of 61, the gov­ern­ment has said. The coun­try’s most fa­mous po­lit­i­cal pris­oner was be­ing treated for ter­mi­nal liver can­cer in a heav­ily-guarded hospi­tal in north-east­ern China. Liu had been trans­ferred from prison last month where he was serv­ing an 11-year term for “sub­ver­sion”.

Liu might be a name rarely ut­tered in the West, but many ar­gue the un­sung hero must be re­mem­bered along- side the other big name dis­si­dents of the 20th cen­tury.

The hu­man rights ac­tivist, who took part in the 1989 pro-democ­racy Tian­nan­men Square demon­stra­tions, was ar­rested in 2008 after writ­ing a pro-democ­racy man­i­festo ti­tled Char­ter 08 in which he de­manded an end to one-party rule and called for im­prove­ments in hu­man rights. It was signed by thou­sands of peo­ple in China.

After a year in de­ten­tion and a two-hour trial, he was sen­tenced in De­cem­ber 2009 to 11 years im­pris­on­ment for “in­cit­ing sub­ver­sion of state power”.

Col­leagues and democ­racy ac­tivists say he was held in­com­mu­ni­cado since – in an at­tempt to do away with any mem­ory of him.

Liu was awarded the No­bel Prize back in 2010 while im­pris­oned but his fam­ily was barred from trav­el­ling to Nor­way to ac­cept the award. In­stead the award was be­stowed to an empty chair, which later be­came a sym­bol of China’s re­pres­sion.

Upon hear­ing the news of his pass­ing, the No­bel com­mit­tee has said the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment bears “heavy re­spon­si­bil­ity” for Liu’s “pre­ma­ture” death.

In the weeks ahead of his death, his case gained in­creas­ing in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion. World lead­ers such as Ger­man Chan­cel­lor, An­gela Merkel, and Tai­wan’s pres­i­dent, Tsai Ing-Wen called upon China to per­mit the democ­racy ac­tivist to travel abroad to re­ceive pal­lia­tive care which sup­port­ers ar­gue could have ex­tended his life.

At the time, crit­ics ar­gued China’s re­luc­tance to let him travel over­seas was prompted by fears he would voice his frus­tra­tions with the one-party state from his deathbed.

Born in De­cem­ber 1955, in Jilin Prov­ince, in north-east China, Liu is the son of a pro­fes­sor who re­mained a loyal Com­mu­nist Party mem­ber de­spite the fact his son ded­i­cated his life to ac­tively dis­obey­ing the party line.

Liu’s life was punc­tu­ated by de­ten­tion. On top of this, the po­lice have kept his wife, Liu Xia, un­der house ar­rest and heavy sur­veil­lance. She has been barred from speak­ing out about Liu’s death and his can­cer treat­ment.

Along with count­less oth­ers, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional USA has paid trib­ute to the dis­si­dent.

Salil Shetty, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, said in a state­ment: “To­day we grieve the loss of a gi­ant of hu­man rights. Liu Xiaobo was a man of fierce in­tel­lect, prin­ci­ple, wit and above all hu­man­ity.

“For decades, he fought tire­lessly to ad­vance hu­man rights and fun­da­men­tal free­doms in China. He did so in the face of the most re­lent­less and of­ten bru­tal op­po­si­tion from the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. Time and again they tried to si­lence him, and time and again they failed. De­spite en­dur­ing years of per­se­cu­tion, sup­pres­sion and im­pris­on­ment, Liu Xiaobo con­tin­ued to fight for his con­vic­tions.

“The great­est trib­ute we can now pay him is to con­tinue the strug­gle and recog­nise the pow­er­ful legacy he leaves be­hind. Thanks to Liu Xiaobo, mil­lions of peo­ple in China and across the world have been in­spired to stand up for free­dom and jus­tice in the face of op­pres­sion.”


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