Chinese Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo dead at 61

Chinese Nobel laureate and dissident Liu Xiaobo passed away on Thursday night after battling late-stage liver cancer. He was 61.

Liu had been serving an 11-year prison sentence for his part in drafting a petition calling for an end to one-party rule in China. Chinese authorities had released Liu on medical parole but had come under strong international pressure in the past week after it emerged that Liu was keen to seek treatment overseas.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) which charts the government’s China policy, had offered to treat Liu in Taiwan.

Chinese writer, intellectual, and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo was born in Jilin, China in 1955 to a family of intellectuals. He obtained a B.A. in literature in 1982 from Jilin University and an M.A. in 1984 from Beijing Normal University. He then joined the faculty at Beijing Normal University, where he eventually received a Ph.D. degree in 1988.

During the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests Liu was in the United States, but he decided to go back to China to join the movement. He was later named as one of the “Four gentlemen of Tiananman Square for persuading students to leave the square, which saved hundreds of lives. Liu was jailed for two years in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen protests and subsequent massacre.

Liu was later detained in 2008 as one of the writers of the document Charter 08. The charter called for an end to one-party rule in China and for the Communist party to uphold the rights and freedoms contained in its own constitution. This led to a sentence of 11 years for subversion of state power in 2009. In 2010, the Norway-based Nobel peace prize committee named Liu as that year’s peace laureate for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. The award led to several years of strained relations between Beijing and Oslo.

During Liu Xiaobo’s years of imprisonment, his wife Liu Xia was also confined to house arrest without charge at the couple’s home in Beijing. Earlier this week, Liu Xia appeared in a video posted by a friend, saying her husband’s cancer could not be treated by chemotherapy or surgery at that stage.

The news was met with anger by Liu’s friends and supporters, who argued that the late diagnosis amounted to political murder and exactly the outcome that Communist party leaders desired for the country’s highest-profile dissident. They say Liu’s cancer might have been discovered earlier if not for the poor standard of medical care in prison.

Source: Radio Taiwan International