Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Prize-winning Chinese dissident who defied the Communist Party by calling for the end of one-party rule, has died. He was 61.
The cause, Chinese officials said, was terminal liver cancer. Liu, who had been serving an 11-year prison sentence for subversive activities, was transferred to a hospital in northeastern China last month.
Liu, a university professor who protected students during the 1989 Tiananmen protests, was imprisoned in 2009 for writing the Chart 08 petition a year earlier calling for China’s transformation into a democracy. Here’s an excerpt:
In 1998 the Chinese government signed two important international human rights conventions; in 2004 it amended its constitution to include the phrase “respect and protect human rights”; and this year, 2008, it has promised to promote a “national human rights action plan.” Unfortunately most of this political progress has extended no further than the paper on which it is written. The political reality, which is plain for anyone to see, is that China has many laws but no rule of law; it has a constitution but no constitutional government. The ruling elite continues to cling to its authoritarian power and fights off any move toward political change.
The stultifying results are endemic official corruption, an undermining of the rule of law, weak human rights, decay in public ethics, crony capitalism, growing inequality between the wealthy and the poor, pillage of the natural environment as well as of the human and historical environments, and the exacerbation of a long list of social conflicts, especially, in recent times, a sharpening animosity between officials and ordinary people.
Liu was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for, in the words of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, “his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” He was unable to attend the award because of his imprisonment.