Washington, D.C. – Liu Xiaobo, scholar, pro-democracy activist, and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, died today at the age of 61. He was receiving treatment for terminal liver cancer in a hospital in northeastern China, where he was transferred from prison last month.
“My heart breaks for Liu Xia, who was deeply in love with her husband. My thoughts and prayers are with her, their family, and the countless friends Liu Xiaobo had around the world,” said Jared Genser, Founder of Freedom Now and pro bono international counsel to Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia since mid-2010. “Despite the tragedy that Liu’s freedom has come from his death, it is clear today that the Chinese government has lost. Liu’s ideas and his dreams will persist, spread, and will, one day, come to fruition. And his courage and his sacrifice for his country will inspire millions of Chinese activists and dissidents to persevere until China has become the multi-party democracy that Liu knew to his core was within its people’s grasp,” he added.
Dr. Liu was imprisoned for his role in drafting Charter 08, a political manifesto that calls for increased rule of law, greater respect for human rights, and the end to one-party rule in China. The Chinese government detained Dr. Liu on December 8, 2008 — two days before the official release of Charter 08. The government held him in solitary confinement and denied him access to his lawyers.
The government did not officially acknowledge Dr. Liu’s arrest until June 23, 2009, when the State News Agency, Xinhua, quoted police as saying in a statement that ”Liu has been engaged in agitation activities, such as spreading of rumors and defaming of the government, aimed at subversion of the state and overthrowing the socialist system in recent years.”
On December 23, 2009, Dr. Liu was tried for “inciting subversion to state power” under Article 105 of the Chinese Criminal Procedure Code. His trial violated international standards for due process of law. His wife and foreign diplomats and journalists were not allowed to attend the trial. On December 25, 2009, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison and two years deprivation of political rights. In the verdict, his signing of Charter 08 was named as part of the evidence against him.
Introduced to the Lius by prominent Chinese dissident Yang Jianli, Freedom Now began representing Liu Xiaobo several months before he was announced as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Freedom Now made the connecting phone call between then Committee Chairman Thorbjørn Jagland and his wife Liu Xia to offer his congratulations. She was then escorted to Jinzhou prison to inform Dr. Liu that he won the Nobel Peace Prize and subsequently escorted back to her Beijing apartment. She has been under house arrest for the past seven years, despite the lack of any formal charge and the Chinese government’s claims that she is under no legal restriction.
“The international community must demand that China honor Liu Xia’s wishes regarding the burial of her husband and whether she or her family want to leave China,” said Maran Turner, Executive Director of Freedom Now.
Dr. Liu’s passing is an immeasurable loss. Freedom Now will honor his legacy by continuing to advocate on behalf of individual prisoners of conscience around the world.