Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo, has died after spending the last eight years of his life in Jinzhou prison in northeast China. Writer, literary critic and human rights activist, Liu Xiaobo was a former president of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre. He was denied access to friends, family and colleagues after his arrest in December 2009 on a charge of ‘inciting subversion of state power.’
He continued to write from within prison, including poetry that expressed continued hope for a China freed from discrimination and human rights abuses. At the December 2010 Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in Oslo, Liu Xiaobo’s medal and diploma were presented to an empty chair. News of his death signalled the beginning of a flow of tributes from PEN centres worldwide.
‘On this sad day I remember the 2010 image of the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjoern Jagland, sitting beside Liu Xiaobo’s medal and diploma on an empty chair – PEN’s symbol for imprisoned writers. On that day the world honoured and celebrated Liu Xiaobo’s courage as it does again today. Liu once said, ‘I hope I will be the last victim in China’s long record of treating words as crimes’. We must continue to uphold his dream.’
– Jennifer Clement, PEN President
‘Jan Patocka wrote that, ‘the real test of a man is not how well he plays the role he has invented for himself, but how well he plays the role that destiny assigned to him.’ Patocka drafted and signed with Havel the Charter 77 and died after a marathon interrogation by Czech Police; he remains the symbol of freedom for Czechs. Dear Liu Xiaobo, dear PEN colleague, you have died today because of the treatment imposed on you by Chinese authorities after you signed the Charter 2008. Your PEN friends around the world will praise your destiny and your commitment, we will praise you every single day until China will be free.’
– Carles Torner, PEN Executive Director
If you would like to pay tribute to Liu Xiaobo, you can write a message in memory here.
A poem by Liu Xiabo written from prison can be read here