SHENYANG, China Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, China’s most prominent political prisoner, died Thursday at a hospital in the country’s northeast, officials said. He was 61.
Liu had been hospitalized for advanced liver cancer diagnosed in prison in May. In an online announcement, the judicial bureau of the city of Shenyang said he died of multiple organ failure.
Liu’s supporters and foreign governments had urged China to allow him to receive treatment abroad, but Chinese authorities insisted he was receiving the best care possible for a disease that had spread throughout his body.
Liu was imprisoned for the first time in connection with the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while serving his fourth and final prison sentence, for inciting subversion by advocating sweeping political reforms and greater human rights in China.
“What I demanded of myself was this: whether as a person or as a writer, I would lead a life of honesty, responsibility, and dignity,” Liu wrote in “I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement,” which he had hoped to read out in court when being sentenced in 2009. He was not permitted to do so and received an 11-year prison sentence.
He came to prominence following the 1989 pro-democracy protests centered in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, which he called the “major turning point” in his life. Liu had been a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York but returned early to China in May 1989 to join the movement that was sweeping the country and which the Communist Party regarded as a grave challenge to its authority.
When the Chinese government sent troops and tanks into Beijing to quash the protests on the night of June 3-4, Liu persuaded some students to leave the square rather than face down the army. The military crackdown killed hundreds, possibly thousands, of people and heralded a more repressive era.
Liu became one of hundreds of Chinese imprisoned for crimes linked to the demonstrations. It was only the first of four stays in prisons owing to his ideology.
His final prison sentence was for co-authoring “Charter 08,” a document circulated in 2008 that called for more freedom of expression, human rights and an independent judiciary in China. Although Liu wasn’t the initiator, he was a prominent force behind it and already well known to the authorities.
The sentence only increased Liu’s prominence outside of his country.
In 2010, while…