Responding to the news that Chinese Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo has developed late-stage liver cancer while in prison and is currently in the hospital receiving treatment, human rights organizations are saying that he never should have been imprisoned in the first place.
A prominent Chinese intellectual, democracy activist and the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Liu is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for inciting subversion of state power.
International human rights group Freedom Now, which has served as international counsel to the imprisoned activist, said their organization is deeply disturbed that Liu’s health was neglected by the Chinese authorities: “We are grateful for Dr. Liu’s release but are deeply disturbed by the circumstances under which the Chinese government granted him parole,” said Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner. “It is unconscionable that the government neglected Dr. Liu’s health, despite repeated calls from the international community to ensure proper care. The Chinese authorities must guarantee that Dr. Liu receive medical treatment for this grave condition and that he is able to be with his wife Liu Xia and his family during this time.”
Amnesty International’s China Researcher Patrick Poon said: “It adds insult to injury that Liu Xiaobo, who should never have been put in prison in the first place, has been diagnosed with a grave illness.’’ Poon also said “The Chinese authorities should immediately ensure that Liu Xiaobo receives adequate medical care, effective access to his family and that he and all others imprisoned solely for exercising their human rights are immediately and unconditionally released.’’
Liu was awarded the Nobel Prize in absentia in 2010 for his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” Liu was one of the leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen protests and was detained and arrested afterward. He was one of the leading authors of Charter 08, which was written to promote human rights and democratization in China.
“That he was ever in prison at all says all one needs to know about Chinese leaders’ profound hostility toward peaceful expression and the rule of law. It appears highly unlikely that his release will equal real freedom – for him, or for all others who simply seek peaceful, positive change in China,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.
Poon also said that Liu and his wife Lu Jia should be freed and reunited: ‘’The authorities must also stop their shameful and illegal house arrest of Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, and ensure that she is able to receive visitors, travel freely and reunite with Liu Xiaobo.”
Liu Xiaobo was arrested in December 2008 and held under ‘’residential surveillance”, a form of pre-trial detention, at an undisclosed location in Beijing until he was formally charged on June 23, 2009 with ‘’spreading rumors and defaming the government, aimed at subversion of the state and overthrowing the socialism system in recent years”. On December 25, 2009 Liu was charged and sentenced to eleven years in prison for ‘’inciting subversion of state power”; his sentence also includes two years of deprivation of his political rights. He has three years left of his current sentence. Prior to his current arrest, Liu has spent a total of five years in prison, including a three year sentence passed in 1996, and has suffered frequent short arrests, harassment and censorship.
Liu was poignantly represented by an empty chair at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Oslo. When told of the announcement after October 8, he wept and told his wife, Liu Xia, that it was dedicated to the martyrs of Tiananmen. Liu Xia has been under house arrest since the award announcement and is incommunicado.
In 2013, more than 450,000 people from 130 countries signed a petition created by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to demand the couple’s immediate release. The petition was launched in solidarity with a letter signed by 134 Nobel laureates demanding Liu’s freedom.