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China Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo's dying wish was denied

July 14, 2017 11:20 PM
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China Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo's dying wish was denied

Global tributes to Liu Xiaobo may be memorialising him as a tireless advocate for democracy - but in China it's a different story.

On Thursday, under guard inside a hospital in northeast China, Liu Xiaobo became the second.

The Chinese authorities have released a series of videos since - intended to show their efforts to treat him, and that everything possible was done.

Everything, that is, apart from the only thing he and his family asked for: the freedom to leave China for treatment abroad.

So when you see those images, and hear those claims, bear in mind that what you are really looking at is a dying man, being denied his last request.

At the hospital on Friday, the only sign that anything had happened here was the wide array of plain clothes security officials stationed outside.

A number of them surrounded us as we tried to film, demanding that we stop, and trying to cover the camera lens.

Our passports, visas, and press accreditation were photographed, and we were filmed and followed in the surrounding streets.

The international tributes to Liu Xiaobo may be memorialising him as a tireless advocate for democracy and human rights, but here in China the news of his death is being heavily censored, and when he is mentioned, he is described as a convicted criminal.

An editorial in the Global Times tabloid described his death as "unfortunate" and said he had been misled by foreign countries.

If you search for Liu Xiaobo or variations of his name on Weibo, a Chinese social networking site, you get an error message that says they were unable to find results.

I tried showing people a photo of Liu Xiaobo outside the hospital gates, and asking if they knew who he was.

The majority shook their heads in what appeared to be genuine bewilderment, though our producer heard one man tell his friend afterwards: "I do know who that is, but it's very sensitive."

Only one person could or would identify him on camera. He told us Liu Xiaobo was "a good man. He contributed a lot to China's freedom and development. He had no fear of death."

But there are other people here who know, and care, about the Nobel laureate.

A member of the medical team at the hospital, who asked us to conceal his identity, told us he wanted to speak to us, despite the significant personal risk involved, because it was the right thing to do, and he wanted to say "something true".

He said he admired Mr Liu's courage, and believes he should have been allowed to leave China.

"We know he is going to die, everyone knows that he is going to die," he explained, "so I think we should allow him the last hope of his life."

Instead, he died, as he lived much of the last two decades, deprived of his freedom, and silenced, cut off from the outside world.

His body was moved under cover of darkness on Thursday night, the streets around the hospital closed to traffic, presumably to ensure no one with a cameraphone could get anywhere close.

It's not clear whether his family will have any say in where and how his remains are laid to rest.

She has been held in what amounts to house arrest since her husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, despite never having been convicted, or even accused of any crime.

The couple's international counsel, Jared Genser, told us they had not heard from her in 48 hours and he was very worried about her safety, and that of her family.

"She's under house arrest because the Chinese government did not want the spouse of the world's only imprisoned Peace Prize laureate to advocate for his freedom around the world, or to speak out publicly in China," Mr Genser said.

Unfortunately, that is not likely to change with the death of her husband.

Liu Xiaobo's last words to his wife were said to be "Live on well" - but unless the Chinese leadership has a sudden change of heart, she is likely to live on in isolation and under their control.


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