Tibetan activists demand Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo's release from Chinese jail

Aaron Brown
July 14, 2017

The Nobel Committee said the "Chinese government bore a heavy responsibility for his premature death".

When not in prison, he was subject to severe restrictions while his wife, Liu Xia, was placed under house arrest. In 1989, he supported the Tiananmen Square protests, staging a non-violent hunger protest, and later dedicated his award to the protestors who died there.

He convinced some of the student protesters to leave the square before the tanks rolled in, saving many lives.

He was later freed, and continued to campaign for democracy. He was sent to prison for 11 years on charges of inciting subversion by advocating sweeping political reforms and greater human rights in his country.

This was a call for an end to one-party rule and the introduction of multi-party democracy.

"The Chinese government's arrogance, cruelty, and callousness are shocking - but Liu's struggle for a rights-respecting, democratic China will live on".

Liu was the co-author of a pro-democracy manifesto called Charter 08, which attracted more than 10,000 signatures online before the authorities deleted the document from internet pages and chat rooms.

He became only the third person to receive a Nobel Peace award while imprisoned by his own government, and the first to die in custody since tuberculosis killed Carl von Ossietzky, 48, a German pacifist, in 1938. Beijing granted medical parole for him to receive treatment, including from foreign experts, but the government refused to allow him to travel overseas for medical care. Instead he died as he had lived, under the close watch of the one-party state.

Jared Genser, the attorney who helped lead that push, lamented Liu's passing in a statement issued Thursday.

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In 2010, Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel peace prize for his struggle to seek political reforms in China. Within days, Liu's wife, the artist and poet Liu Xia, was put under house arrest, despite not being convicted of any crime.

In 1988, Liu received his doctorate in literature from Beijing Normal University, and he stayed on to work as a lecturer and literary critic.

He was recently moved from prison to a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang to be treated. But Chinese medical experts insisted that he was too ill to travel. Liu's condition is now life threatening with multiple organ failure, and his family has opted against inserting a breathing tube needed to keep him alive, the hospital treating him said on Wednesday.

What has the reaction been?

While China's censorship made it hard to assess Liu's support, he was a "hero" for many liberals in China, even if few will speak out for him, a Chinese editor at an online publication said, declining to be named.

China's dream should include his dream of political progress in China, she said. Since the Chinese government viewed him as a criminal, Liu was never allowed the opportunity to collect his prize.

Noting that the world grieves the loss of Liu, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi termed his death as a tragedy.

According to The Telegraph, Beijing was infuriated by the Nobel committee's decision to honor Liu, and censored the live broadcast of the ceremony. Her fate will now worry human rights groups, which had urged the government to free her alongside Liu Xiaobo.

"He fought for freedom and democracy for more than 30 years, becoming a monument to morality and justice and a source of inspiration", said Wen Kejian, a fellow writer.

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