China’s Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo died on Thursday while still in custody following a battle with cancer, authorities said, after officials ignored international pleas to let him spend his final days free and abroad. The prominent democracy advocate died aged 61, more than a month after he was transferred from prison to a heavily-guarded hospital to be treated for late-stage liver cancer.
The legal bureau in the northeastern city of Shenyang said on its website that Liu died three days after going into intensive care at the First Hospital of China Medical University. The writer’s death silences a government critic who had been a thorn in the side of the authorities for decades and became a symbol of Beijing’s growing crackdown on dissenting voices.
Liu’s death puts China in dubious company as he became the first Nobel Peace Prize laureate to die in custody since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who passed away in a hospital while held by the Nazis in 1938. International human rights groups, Western governments and local activists had urged authorities to free Liu and grant his final wish to be treated abroad. But officials insisted that Liu was receiving treatment from top Chinese doctors since being granted medical parole following his diagnosis in late May. In response to calls to allow Liu to leave China, the foreign ministry repeatedly said other countries should not interfere in China’s internal affairs.