Chinese Nobel laureate and political prisoner, Liu Xiaobo, died in Chinese custody on 13.7.2017. He was 61 and died of multiple organ failure after his liver cancer affected all his organs. He was behind bars for almost a quarter of his life and has been serving an 11 year jail sentence for demanding an end to one-party rule. He was diagnosed of late stage liver cancer in May last. China is facing an onslaught of international censure for the treatment of the Nobel laureate and democracy campaigner. Liu Xiaobo died at a hospital in north-east China and is the first Nobel peace prize winner to die in custody since the German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky. Liu Xiaobo was born in the northern province of Jilin in 1955 and was part of the first generation of Chinese students to go to the university after they reopened following the turmoil of Cultural Revolution by Mao Zedong. Liu studied Chinese literature and became a well respected writer and public thinker. Pro-democracy protested broke out in Bejing in 1989 and Liu who was lecturing in New York returned to China even though he had not shown any interest in politics before. After reaching Bejing Liu headed to Tiananmen Square and played a major role in the protests which followed. He led a hunger strike before the June 4th military clearout in which thousands of lives were lost and Liu was jailed for two years for his leadership role in what Bejing termed as “counter-revolutionary” riots. This punishment made Liu to transform into a lifelong activist and champion of democracy.
Liu was sentenced to jail on Dec 25th 2009 and the Chinese government dismissed the extensive international criticism of the verdict as interference in its internal affairs. Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in the year 2010 for “his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”. During the award function the Nobel committee kept the prize on an empty chair to symbolize his absence from the award ceremony in Oslo, Norway. Liu is the third Nobel laureate to receive the peace prize while under arrest or under house arrest. The earlier award winners to receive Nobel prize under arrest were German journalist Carl von Ossietzky in 1935 and Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-democracy leader, in 1991. On hearing the news of the award Liu dedicated the prize to the Tiananmen generation and for the students who had died.