Liu Xiaobo and wife Liu Xia in August 2001 © Private

Liu Xiaobo campaigned tirelessly for human rights in China. Time and again the government tried to silence him. But time and again they failed. He has died today of liver cancer, at the age of 61, having been denied the right to leave the country to access urgent medical attention

When he died, he was in hospital but still in custody on medical parole from an 11 year sentence — handed down in 2009 for ‘inciting subversion of state power’ after he co-signed a call for political reform in China. He was a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned only for peacefully expressing his views. 

He was previously detained for his role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and again in 1996, after challenging China's policies on Tibet. The academic and writer was a life-long activist, often using his writings to criticise the government and call for reform.

He did so in the face of relentless and often brutal resistance from the authorities. But try as they might, they failed to silence him. 

In 2010, Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his campaigning. An empty chair took his place on stage. The Chinese authorities attempted to impose a news blackout on him after he was awarded the Prize and they systematically harassed and intimidated his family and supporters. 

His wife, Liu Xia, has been under illegal house arrest ever since — to prevent her from communicating with the outside world. We continue to campaign for her release 

This is a sad day for human rights, but Liu Xiaobo leaves behind a powerful legacy to inspire others to continue the struggle for human rights in China and around the world. 

Thank you Liu Xiaobo, for everything you have done. 

Attend a vigil for Liu Xiaobo in London on Friday, 14 July at 4.30pm