Liu Xiaobo, China’s most prominent human activist, and a Nobel laureate died Thursday after a short battle with liver cancer. The 61-year-old died while in custody at a hospital in China, despite appeals to the state to permit him to travel abroad for medical treatment. A university professor turned rights campaigner, Xiaobo was transferred from prison to a heavily-guarded hospital after he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. The activist shocked many with his views and opinions and sharp criticism of the establishment. For this, he earned the nickname ‘dark horse.’ US President Donald Trump was deeply saddened after learning of the death of Liu Xiaobo. As per PTI report, the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said,” “President Donald J Trump was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Nobel Peace Prize laureate and prominent Chinese political prisoner Liu Xiaobo.” He added,”The President’s heartfelt condolences go out to Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, and his family and friends. A poet, scholar, and courageous advocate, Liu Xiaobo dedicated his life to the pursuit of democracy and liberty,”
Liu is known for his role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing. He was in Colombia at the time when protests broke out. Even after learning how grim the political situation was, the Chinese literary critic chose to return home. The incident is also known as the June Fourth incident. The movement was led by students to demand freedom and democracy at large. The government in retaliation cracked down on the protesters resulting in the death of hundreds of protests and arrest of Liu and others.
As per the report, since 1989, Liu was arrested several times because of his pro-democracy activities by the Chinese authorities. In 2008, Liu released Chapter 08, a pro-democracy manifesto asking for an end to the one-party rule and improvement of human rights situation in the country. The manifesto was signed by thousands of citizens. Liu was promptly arrested and awarded 11 years imprisonment for “inciting subversion of state power.” Since then he was behind bars.
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He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010 for his non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. After hearing the news Beijing did not allow his family to visit Norway to accept the award. The peace prize was later awarded to an empty chair on behalf of Liu. It was a remarkable gesture which later became the symbol of defiance of authoritarianism in China. Xiaobo was the first Chinese to win the Noble prize.
Liu has also authored three books: Criticism of the Choice: Dialogues with Li Zehou, Aesthetic and Human Freedom and The Fog of Metaphysics. All the books were banned despite their critical acclaim. After his death, he is only the second Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in custody after German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky who won the award in 1935 and died in the Nazi concentration camp.