Who is Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and what’s his story?

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 June, 2017, 11:57pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 June, 2017, 11:29am

Jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner and prominent Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo has been released from prison after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

A literary critic, Liu had been kept as a political prisoner since 2009, after calling for more democratic freedoms in China.

Authorities confirm Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo in hospital

The 61-year-old dissident was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer last month, and allowed to go to hospital for treatment.

Who is Liu Xiaobo?

In 2010, Liu became the first Chinese citizen to win a Nobel Peace Prize for his long, peaceful campaign for human rights in China. But Liu was unable to accept the award in person – he was behind bars at the time. He was represented by an empty chair at the 2010 awards ceremony in Oslo, Norway, and has never been able to collect his prize. In a statement read as his Nobel Lecture in absentia, he praised freedom of expression as the “foundation of human rights, the source of humanity and the mother of truth”.

Why was Liu in jail?

In 2008, Liu was taken was taken away by police. In 2009, he was sentenced to 11 years behind bars in Jinzhou Prison, Liaoning Province, for subversion, after he co-authored a manifesto known as Charter 08, calling for political change in China. It was released on December 10, 2008, the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and 100 years after China’s first constitution. The charter made a number of demands, including freedom of expression, an independent judiciary and freedom of association. It was signed by over 300 Chinese human rights activists, academics and prominent people in China and gained supporters outside the country. It took its inspiration from Charter 77, a political document written in Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia.

Liu has never admitted committing a crime, meaning he was unlikely to qualify for non-medical parole.

Why was he allowed to leave jail?

Liu was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer on May 23, his lawyer Mo Shaoping confirmed to the South China Morning Post. He asked for treatment outside prison and was granted medical parole.

He is being treated in a hospital in Shenyang, Liaoning, in the north east of China.

What happened when Liu won the Nobel Peace Prize?

China heavily censored news reports of the award and immediately froze diplomatic ties with Norway, where the ceremony was held. After Liu won the prize in 2010, his artist wife Liu Xia was put under effective house arrest in Beijing. In 2014, Liu Xia was admitted to a Beijing hospital after Chinese authorities refused to let her seek medical care overseas. People who spoke to her this year, including her lawyer Shang Baojun, have said she seems severely depressed and has no real freedom.

It wasn’t the first time an activist had won the award while behind bars. In 1935, German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work exposing Germany’s secret rearmament which contravened the Treaty of Versailles. Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the prize in 1991 for her campaign for democracy.

What other human rights work has he been involved with?

Liu has been jailed a number of times for his human rights work. He was involved in the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, which ended in violence.

He was the president of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, a non-profit group which fights for freedom of expression for writers, and was the president of Minzhu Zhongguo, a magazine promoting a democratic China.

After the Tianamen Square protests, Liu was convicted of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement. He was released, but was taken back into custody in 1995 for campaigning for political reform on the 6th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. He married his wife while he was in a labour camp, and was then released in 1999.