(Liu Xiabo Dec. 28, 1955 – Jul 13, 2017)
(TibetanReview.net, Jul14, 2017) – After being transferred to a hospital with late-stage liver cancer about a month ago and being refused permission to be taken abroad for best possible treatment and palliative care, China’s jailed Nobel Peace laureate, Mr Liu Xiaobo, has died on Jul 13 due to multiple organ failure. China’s best known democracy activist – known for his moderate stance in urging the Communist Party of China to let the people in whose name it rules to be free and allowed to choose their own government – was 61.
Liu was serving an 11-year jail term for “incitement to subvert state power” due to his online writings urging democracy and constitutional government in China. They included Charter 08, a document that he co-authored and was signed by more than 300 prominent scholars, writers, and rights activists around the country.
He also wrote an essay titled “I Have No Enemies”, stating that “the mentality of enmity can poison a nation’s spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and block a nation’s progress towards freedom and democracy”. And he declared that he had no enemies, and no hatred. He wanted to read it during his trial but he was not allowed even to speak. It was later read during his Nobel Peace Award ceremony.
The former literature professor had also been the president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center writers’ group from 2003 to 2007, had headed the Democratic China magazine since the mid-1990s, and was also a visiting scholar at Columbia University, the University of Oslo, and the University of Hawaii.
During the 1989 pro-democracy protest on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Liu and other activists negotiated the safe exit of several hundred demonstrators and they have been credited with saving their lives. He was subsequently placed in a detention centre and released in 1991.
In fact, Liu has spent much of the last three decades of his life in forced confinement — at home, at labor camps or in prison. He was already serving his 11-year jail sentence when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2010. He was represented at the awards ceremony in Oslo by an empty chair as China refused to let him collect the award.
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Liu was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer in May and moved to the First Affiliated Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang, capital of northeast China’s Liaoning Province, in June. China allowed a cancer specialist each from Germany and the USA to be flown to look him up but rejected their opinion that Liu could be flown abroad for further treatment.
China came under a chorus of criticisms from rights groups and expressions of concern from the international community over its refusal to allow Liu to seek medical attention overseas and end his days free from official control. It claimed that “top-notch medical teams had been assigned to treat him with advanced drugs and therapies”, and that he had received regular health checks and cancer screening since 2012 after he entered prison with hepatitis B, which could lead to liver cancer.
But these are seen as a public relations campaign by the government of China. “Liu Xiaobo’s liver cancer was allowed to develop until it became incurable, and I am so angry about that,” the Mandarin Service of Radio Free Asia (Washington) Jul 13 quoted an unnamed retired Beijing-based academic as saying.
In Hong Kong, a 24-hour silent vigil being held outside China’s liaison office in the city entered its fourth day as Liu’s death was announced. Demand for Liu’s release was one of the calls of the democracy protesters during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the city for its 20th anniversary of handover from British Rule on Jul 1.
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The Nobel Committee, which gave him the Peace Prize in 2010, said Liu’s death was “premature” and added China bore a “heavy responsibility” for it.
In Germany, one of the countries considered as an option for Mr Liu, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel expressed regret that his transfer did not take place. “China now has the responsibility to quickly, transparently and plausibly answer the question of whether the cancer could not have been identified much earlier,” he added in a statement.
Likewise, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it was “wrong” for China to have denied Liu Xiaobo permission to leave.
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Meanwhile, Liu’s widow Liu Xia, whose current whereabouts are unknown, is said to be suffering from depression after spending years under house arrest and heavy surveillance. She was allowed to visit her husband in hospital.
Germany, UK, France, the United States and Taiwan have called on China to allow Liu Xia to travel and leave the country if she wishes. The call was endorsed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who urged China to “guarantee Liu Xia’s freedom of movement”.
Rights group Amnesty International has started a petition for her release, saying “it’s time the Chinese authorities stop cruelly punishing” her.
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In India, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, expressed deep sadness over the news of Liu’s death. “I am deeply saddened to learn that fellow Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo has passed away while undergoing a lengthy prison sentence. I offer my prayers and condolences to his wife, Liu Xia and to other members of his family,” he said in a message posted on his official website Dalailama.com Jul 14. He believed that Liu’s unceasing efforts in the cause of freedom will bear fruit before long.
President Lobsang Sangay of the Central Tibetan Administration at Dhaamshala, India, also said Jul 13 that he was disheartened by the news of Liu’s death. And he said, “I on behalf of Tibetans inside and outside Tibet offer my condolence and wish his wife Liu Xia much strength and resolve in these difficult times.”