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Volume:8, Number:03
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Around The World 1

Death of a Dissident

Chinese Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, endearingly called ‘a monument to morality’ by friends and admirers, died on July 13

| Muhtasim Billah |

Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Peace Prize laureate imprisoned in China, dies at 61. For friends and admirers, the China’s only Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s death on July 13 comes as a severe blow. To many of them, Liu represented hope for a freer China with more room for dissent. Now that he is gone, they said, that dream looks more distant. Liu, who passed up opportunities to leave China for a life in exile, had been in a Chinese prison since his conviction for “subversion” in 2009. In 2010, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his “long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights”. Since he could not attend the ceremony, he was represented by an empty chair. The Nobel committee said in a statement on July 13 that the Chinese government bears “heavy responsibility” for his death.

On June 25, officials announced that Liu had late-stage liver cancer and was being moved to a hospital, starting a macabre battle about where and how he should be treated — and where and how he would die. His friends said that Liu and his wife wanted to travel to Germany or the United States for treatment. Doctors from both countries cleared it, but Chinese officials insisted he was too sick to leave. As he lay dying, foreign governments, including the United States, joined rights groups and Chinese dissidents- in-exile in calling for his release. The government rebuffed their pleas, saying it was an internal matter. Hu Jia, a fellow dissident who counts Liu as a close friend, said the scuffle over his final days proved some of what Liu had been saying all along that the ruling Communist Party could be “coldblooded and cruel”. What he most admired, Hu said, was that Liu never stopped resisting but that he always resisted peacefully. That would be his legacy, Hu said.

Chinese authorities, who have kept Liu out of the public eye for years, said little about his death on July 13. At a news conference at the hospital where he died, doctors defended the care Liu was given and the decision to keep him there. Strict censorship has stopped many ordinary Chinese from following his case, though some still tried to post about Liu online. In an effort to stop people from grieving publicly, censors blocked the candle emoji. Elsewhere in the region, his death was greeted with open sorrow and outrage. In Hong Kong, people gathered outside the China Liaison Office, the central government’s outpost in the semiautonomous city, to light candles and honor Liu. Nathan Law, a local pro-democracy activist, read from the statement Liu prepared ahead of his 2009 trial and which was read in full the night he won the Nobel. “I have no enemies and no hatred,” it read. Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen tweeted a tribute to the man she called a “tireless advocate for human rights.” “In 2010, Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize In the ceremony, the attention of the whole world was on the empty chair,” she said. “Sadly, he will never have a chance to claim that seat.”

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