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Liu Xiaobo: China’s most prominent dissident dies

Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who was China’s most prominent human rights and democracy advocate, has died aged 61.

The activist was being treated for terminal liver cancer in a hospital in north-eastern China.

He had been transferred from prison last month, where he was serving an 11-year term for “subversion”.

A university professor turned tireless rights campaigner, Mr Liu was branded a criminal by authorities, and was repeatedly jailed throughout his life.

He was also subject to severe restrictions when not in prison, while his wife, Liu Xia, was placed under house arrest.

In the weeks leading up to his death, Mr Liu’s case became mired in international controversy.

Several Western countries urged China to allow Mr Liu to leave the country to seek palliative care elsewhere. A German and an American doctor who recently visited and examined him in a hospital in Shenyang both said he would be able to travel abroad.

But Chinese medical experts insisted that he was too ill to travel.

In a brief statement on its website, the Shenyang legal bureau said that Mr Liu had suffered multiple organ failure, and that efforts to save the activist had failed.

Mr Liu was a pro-democracy figurehead for activists outside mainland China, although many of his compatriots were unaware of his struggles because the authorities rigorously censored news about him.

The activist played a significant role in the Tiananmen protests of June 1989 which ended in bloodshed when they were quashed by troops

He and other activists negotiated the safe exit of several hundred demonstrators, and have been credited with saving the protesters’ lives.

He was subsequently placed in a detention centre and released in 1991.

Analysis: The price of political defiance

By Carrie Gracie, China editor

Chinese authorities refused Liu Xiaobo’s dying request to be allowed to travel abroad for treatment. Instead he died as he had lived, under the close watch of the one-party state.

The life and death of this Nobel laureate underline the cost of political defiance in China. Liu Xiaobo had enjoyed a comfortable early career as a university professor, but the massacre which followed the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests was the fork in his path.

Where many gave up demanding democracy, he stood firm and was jailed repeatedly.

When he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, he was serving an 11-year prison sentence for subversion. A furious Beijing subsequently placed his wife under house arrest.

Only in a hospital ward in the last days of his life have this suffering couple been reunited, only to be parted again by his death.

Mr Liu’s campaign to free those detained during Tiananmen landed him in a labour camp in north-eastern China for three years but he was permitted to marry poet Liu Xia there in 1996.

He was later freed, and continued to campaign for democracy.

The 11-year jail term he was serving when he died was handed down in 2009 after he compiled, with other intellectuals, the Charter 08 manifesto.

This was a call for an end to one-party rule and the introduction of multi-party democracy. Mr Liu was found guilty of trying to overthrow the state.

The dissident won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 for his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”, but he was not permitted to travel to Sweden to accept it.

 

Source: BBC

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