Beijing (AFP) – Liu Xiaobo, who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize from behind bars, was for decades a vocal champion of democracy and human rights until Chinese authorities locked him up for speaking out.
The 61-year-old, who was previously jailed for his involvement in the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests, was sentenced in 2009 to 11 years in prison for subversion — a punishment that earned international condemnation.
To Beijing’s fury, he was awarded the Nobel prize a year later — and was represented by an empty chair at the ceremony in Oslo.
Last month the prominent activist was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and released from prison on medical parole, his lawyer Mo Shaoping said Monday.
He is being treated in a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang.
Liu was arrested in late 2008 after co-authoring Charter 08, a widely circulated petition that called for political reform in the Communist-ruled nation.
The bold manifesto, which was signed by more than 10,000 people after it went online, calls for the protection of basic human rights and the reform of China’s one-party system.
Beijing opposes the peace prize “because they fear that it will draw more attention to Liu Xiaobo and to China’s situation (on democracy and human rights),” his wife Liu Xia told AFP after he was honoured by the Nobel committee.
“If they didn’t fear this, then they would not have sentenced him to 11 years for writing an essay.”
Liu Xia herself was placed under house arrest at the time of the Nobel award and could not be reached for comment on Monday.
She suffered a heart attack in 2014, when she was diagnosed with depression after years of detention, a rights group said at the time.
– Words seen ‘as crimes’ –
Charter 08 specifically demands the abolition of subversion as an criminal offence.
“We should make freedom of speech, freedom of the press and academic freedom universal, thereby guaranteeing that citizens can be informed and can exercise their right of political supervision,”…