July 13 (UPI) — Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has died weeks after his release from prison following a cancer diagnosis, the Shenyang bureau of justice said.
The justice bureau in Shenyang, where Liu was receiving treatment, in a statement on its website said the dissident’s disease “continued to deteriorate” after his release. The agency said Liu was placed in intensive care on Monday and he died on Thursday due to multiple organ failure caused by liver cancer.
Chinese officials in late June moved Liu, 61, from a prison in northeast China to a cancer treatment center in Shenyang, Liaonong province. He was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer on May 23 and given medical parole.
Liu was a lecturer at Beijing State University and a prominent figure in student free speech protests in Beijing and other Chinese cities in 1989. He was noted for his impassioned pro-democracy speeches, and started a hunger strike prior to the Chinese military involvement in crushing the movement at Tiananmen Square. During that incident, he negotiated a peaceful retreat from the public square and is credited with saving many lives.
His involvement in the uprising brought him a 21-month jail term. In 2008, he helped compose a petition, called “Charter 08” and later signed by hundreds of scholars and activists. It called for Chinese political liberalization, and brought Liu a 15-year prison sentence for “inciting subversion of state power.”
He was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize for Peace, for what the Nobel committee termed “his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” He was not present to receive the award in Oslo and was represented by an empty chair.
U.N High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said Liu was “the true embodiment of the democratic, non-violent ideals he so ardently advocated,” adding that China has “lost a principled champion who devoted his life to defending and promoting human rights.”
“I would like to express my deep sorrow at the news that China’s iconic peace and democracy figure Liu Xiaobo has died at the age of 61. I send my heartfelt condolences and deepest respects to his wife, Liu Xia, his family and friends, and hope that they will be able to grieve and honor him in accordance with their wishes,” Zeid said in a statement. “Liu Xiaobo was the definition of civic courage and human dignity – a poet and intellectual who wanted, and strove for, a better future for his country. A man who, despite all he suffered, continued to espouse the politics of peace. He was and will continue to be an inspiration and an example for all human rights defenders.”
Ed Adamczyk contributed to this report.