Chinese Humanitarian Liu Xiaobo Dies

A picture of Liu Xiaobo with the words, "The face of Chinese democracy" written beside him.

Photo courtesy of Democracy Chronicles at Flickr Creative Commons.

Liu Xiaobo, China’s most prominent human rights activist, passed away today at the age of 61. Liu Xiaobo, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer in May 2017. His cause of death appears to be a result of the disease.

Xiaobo was a writer, literary critic, and professor. He later became a human rights activist. He made a name for himself in 1989 when he became a key leader in the Tiananmen Square protests.

“As a survivor of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement, I feel I have a duty to uphold justice for those who died in that event,” Liu Xiaobo once said in a video interview.

Due to his involvement with the protests, Liu Xiaobo was arrested and expelled from Beijing Normal University, where he once taught literature. The Chinese government also banned his work. He was convicted of “counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement” nearly two years later.

Liu Xiaobo was an outspoken critic of China’s communist rule and was vehemently opposed to Confucianism. He believed in the Western principles of democracy, which put him at odds with traditional Chinese values. Here’s one of his most famous quotes:

I look forward to (the day) when my country is a land with freedom of expression, where the speech of every citizen will be treated equally well; where different values, ideas, beliefs, and political views … can both compete with each other and peacefully coexist; where both majority and minority views will be equally guaranteed, and where the political views that differ from those currently in power, in particular, will be fully respected and protected; where all political views will spread out under the sun for people to choose from, where every citizen can state political views without fear, and where no one can under any circumstances suffer political persecution for voicing divergent political views. I hope that I will be the last victim of China’s endless literary inquisitions and that from now on no one will be incriminated because of speech.

Liu Xiaobo died while in Chinese custody. He was serving an 11-year prison sentence for actively supporting a pro-democracy manifesto titled “Charter 08.”

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