Friday, 21 July, 2017

Remembering Liu Xiaobo (1955-2017): China's legendary human rights activist

An urn containing the ashes of Liu Xiaobo is lowered into the sea off the coast of Dalian An urn containing the ashes of Liu Xiaobo is lowered into the sea off the coast of Dalian
Saul Franklin | 15 July, 2017, 00:40

Liu Xiaobo, who was an internationally renowned literary critic, writer, human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, died in the First Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang, northern China, on Thursday after German and American specialists failed to save him.

"Switzerland regrets that Liu's peaceful use of the right to free speech led to a prison sentence for "inciting subversion of state power", and that his family was refused access to him during the detention".

As tributes to China's Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo flood worldwide media, those in China are refraining from giving prominence to the influential dissident.

China went public with news of Liu's terminal liver cancer diagnosis last month, prompting calls from around the world for the Chinese government to give the 61-year-old human rights activist the freedom to choose where he wanted to be treated. The hospital where he was being held against his will said Thursday night that Liu had died.

The police have kept his wife, Liu Xia, under house arrest, preventing her from speaking out about Liu's death and his belated treatment for cancer.

"Some news came out when Liu Xiaobo was still with us, that it was Liu Xia's wish to have his ashes scattered at sea", the friend said.

His death has earned China worldwide criticism and the country has chosen silence on the matter, something the BBC describes as "a virtual media blackout".

Chinese authorities released video footage meant to show that Liu had been receiving good medical care, and they invited US and German doctors to treat him. "There is no force that can put an end to the human quest for freedom", he wrote, "and China will in the end become a nation ruled by law, where human rights reign supreme".

"Naturally we are anxious about Liu Xia right now, because she has been suffering from depression and heart disease in the years since Liu Xiaobo went to prison", Poon told RFA.

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"I'm saddened. It's a huge shock for me", Liu, who is not related to the laureate, said.

However, at this point, it's not clear how Liu Xia is living.

The Chinese government, which had long banned Liu's work and even his name, continues to censor the story of his death, deleting social media posts mourning him - including those simply displaying the image of a burning candle - and blocking online searches containing variations of his name and famed quotes.

China punished Norway by suspending political and economic ties - including salmon imports from Norway - until past year, when Oslo promised to respect "China's core interests and major concerns". The Chinese government reacted by briefly suspending trade with Norway.

Human rights activists are now pushing for the Communist government to release Liu's wife, poet Liu Xia, who has been held under house arrest in Beijing since 2010.

Liu's death was mourned in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and in many countries around the world.

Liu Yunpeng said a patient is not obligated to get treatment from them and "you can go to where you desire to receive treatment".

Mr Liu's friends said his legacy would live on, and Ms Ai said others were ready to take up his cause. "That is why they tried to keep her quiet", he said. Some critics warned that the treatment of Mr. Liu has marred China's worldwide reputation and tarnished the legacy of President Xi Jinping, who has taken a hard line against dissidents.

Berit Reiss-Andersen, chairwoman of Nobel Peace Prize committee, said her visa to China to attend Liu's funeral had been rejected amid speculation that Beijing was trying to avoid a publicity around Liu's funeral.

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