Jailed peace laureate dies of cancer
Liu was ‘giant of human rights’
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.”