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China's artists defy censorship ban to mourn Liu Xiaobo

15 July 2017

China on Friday said that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo amounted to "blasphemy" and lodged protests with several countries, including the U.S., for making "irresponsible statements" on the death of the prominent dissident. In and out of prison since for his fearless criticism of the government, he was last sentenced to 11 years in 2009 for co-authoring Charter 08, a 2008 call for political reform and greater freedom.

Berit Reiss-Andersen, chairwoman of Nobel Peace Prize committee, said her visa to China to attend Liu's funeral had been rejected amid speculation that Beijing was trying to avoid a publicity around Liu's funeral.

The statement said President Donald Trump's "heartfelt condolences go out to Liu Xiaobo's wife, Liu Xia, and his family and friends".

Liu had been suffering from liver cancer and died of multiple organ failure.

Global human rights groups, Western governments and local activists had urged authorities to free Liu and grant his final wish to be treated overseas.

"Mr. Liu dedicated his life to intellectual discovery, the pursuit of freedom and the protection of human rights in China", Freeland said in her official statement. "The Chinese government's arrogance, cruelty, and callousness are shocking - but Liu's struggle for a rights-respecting Democratic China will live on".

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters Wednesday that Liu, who is suffering from advanced liver cancer, has asked to leave with his wife for treatment overseas. "All the willpower and force we put behind freeing Liu Xiaobo, we have turned to Liu Xia", he said, calling on the United States and Germany to continue pressuring China to free Liu Xia. "So when we saw him we thought he was very much at peace", Teng said. One popular motif was a picture of an empty chair, echoing the way the Nobel Prize committee honored Mr. Liu at the 2010 ceremony.

In a sign of China's growing confidence, the state-controlled Global Times newspaper said in an English-language editorial that "the West has bestowed upon Liu a halo, which will not linger".

In 1996, the authorities granted him permission to marry Liu Xia, an artist and poet, whilst still in jail.

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Amnesty International's China researcher Patrick Poon said Liu Xia's mental and physical health are also under extreme strain.

In June, it issued an angry response when Tsai offered to help China transition to democracy while marking the 28th anniversary of 1989's violent suppression of pro-democracy protests in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Responding to such calls on Friday, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang chastised foreign officials for "making improper comments on Liu Xiaobo's death of illness".

United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday that the United Nations chief sent his condolences to Liu's family and friends.

China's Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo died of liver cancer while in custody. "Despite the imprisonment and separation from the wife he adored that could have (fueled) anger and bitterness, Liu Xiaobo declared that he had no hatred for those who pursued and prosecuted him".

Domestic media outlets, all controlled by the ruling Communist Party, mostly ignored the news, with a photo of a beaming President Xi Jinping meeting his Canadian counterpart dominating the front page of the party mouthpiece the People's Daily.

"Since the day Liu Xiaobo was admitted, the hospital has made every effort in his treatment", Liu Yunpeng told a news conference late on Thursday night.

The hearing featured three witnesses who had worked with or backed Liu in various capacities, including US-based Chinese dissident Yang Jianli, who once represented the family.

The circumstances in which Nobel Peace Prize victor Liu Xiaobo died, is an indictment of a state leaning towards totalitarianism.

China's artists defy censorship ban to mourn Liu Xiaobo