On July 13, Chinese government announced that Liu Xiaobo, the first and so far the only Chinese citizen to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, died of multiple organ failure under guard in a hospital in Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning Province. The U.S. government has already publicly demanded China to release Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, who has also been kept under house arrest for years.
Liu Xiaobo, under the charge of “inciting subversion of state power,” was arrested in 2009, sentenced to 11 years in prison in Liaoning, and deprived of political rights for two years. On June 26, he was released from Liaoning’s prison on medical parole with a liver cancer diagnosis and received medical treatment accordingly in Shenyang.
As The Diplomat reported, immediately after Liu’s release, a short video of his wife was posted online. She cried and talked about her husband’s condition in a staccato sentence: “[They] cannot perform surgery, or radiotherapy, or chemotherapy.”
Although the majority of people had already mentally prepared for the fact of Liu Xiaobo’s deteriorating health, the news of his death is still a hard hit to the chest of everyone who cares about him. The Bureau of Justice in Shenyang, the city where Liu was being treated, announced that he had “died of sickness.” Many Chinese netizens condemned the Chinese government’s announcement for its cool and indifferent wording: “They didn’t even use the phase ‘pass away’!” commented some Chinese netizens.
At the other end of the earth, the U.S. Department of State issued an statement “On the Passing of Liu Xiaobo” and expressed condolences right away.
Representing the U.S. government, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said:
Today, I join those in China and around the world in mourning the tragic passing of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died while serving a lengthy prison sentence in China for promoting peaceful democratic reform.
Tillerson also highly praised Liu for his contribution to humankind:
Mr. Liu dedicated his life to the betterment of his country and humankind, and to the pursuit of justice and liberty. In his fight for freedom, equality, and constitutional rule in China, Liu Xiaobo embodied the human spirit that the Nobel Prize rewards. In his death, he has only reaffirmed the Nobel Committee’s selection.
Meanwhile, Tillerson called on China to release Liu Xiaobo’s wife:
My heartfelt condolences go out to Liu’s wife Liu Xia and all of his loved ones. I call on the Chinese government to release Liu Xia from house arrest and allow her to depart China, according to her wishes.
With Liu himself gone, the health and safety of his wife has become the top priority for people who care about Liu’s family. The whole world is watching the Chinese government’s next step.
Charlotte Gao holds a MA degree in Asian Studies. Her research interests center around East Asian topics. She has worked in the past as a news editor, reporter, and writer for multiple traditional, online, and new media outlets.