SHENYANG, China: China’s Nobel peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo died on Thursday (Jul 13) aged 61 after losing a battle with cancer, authorities said, more than a month after he was transferred to a hospital from prison.

The Shenyang legal bureau said in a brief statement on its website that Liu had suffered multiple organ failure and efforts to save him had failed.

Liu is the first Nobel Peace Prize laureate to die in custody since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who passed away in a hospital while held by the Nazis in 1938.

Liu, 61, was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” after he helped write a petition known as “Charter 08” calling for sweeping political reforms. Liu was released on medical parole after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer last month.

Profile of Liu Xiaobo, Chinese dissident AFP/AFP

The writer’s death silences a government critic who had been a thorn in the side of the authorities for decades and became a symbol of Beijing’s growing crackdown on dissenting voices.

The Chinese government had rebuffed international appeals to let Liu seek treatment abroad, saying he was getting the best possible care from top domestic doctors. 

Germany had offered to treat Liu, calling for a “signal of humanity” from China. The United States also said it was willing to take him in. In response to calls to allow Liu to leave China, the foreign ministry repeatedly said other countries should not interfere in China’s internal affairs.

In early July, Liu’s Chinese doctors said he was not healthy enough to be sent abroad for treatment, a position that was contradicted by US and German medical experts invited by the hospital to examine Liu’s condition. The physicians offered to treat the laureate at hospitals in their home countries.

Human rights groups decried the way the government treated Liu, accusing authorities of manipulating information about his health and refusing to let him leave because they were afraid he would use the freedom to denounce China’s one-party Communist regime.

As a gaunt Liu lay in his sickbed, a video was leaked showing the Western doctors praising their Chinese counterparts – a scene that was denounced as “grotesque propaganda” by Human Rights Watch.

The German embassy said the video seemed to show that security organs were “steering the process, not medical experts”.

Liu is also known for his role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing.

His wife, Liu Xia, was placed under house arrest in 2010, but she was allowed to see him at the hospital. Her fate will now worry human rights groups, which had urged the government to free her alongside Liu Xiaobo.



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