Asia-Pacific

World reacts with praise, sadness to Liu Xiaobo's death

Liu Xiaobo speaks during an interview in this file image from 2008.
Liu Xiaobo speaks during an interview in this file image from 2008. The activist has died in a Chinese hospital from cancer. Source: AP/AAP

World leaders hailed Chinese Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo as a brave fighter for human rights after his death on Thursday following a battle with cancer.

Liu, a government critic and thorn in the side of the authorities for decades, died in custody, having been sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for "subversion".

His death also brought criticism for Chinese authorities who refused international pleas to let him receive treatment abroad.

China

China has rejected foreign criticism of Beijing's handling of the illness from which imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo died.

The Foreign Ministry in Beijing, in an early morning statement on Friday, said China made "all-out efforts" to treat Liu after he was diagnosed with liver cancer while in prison.

The statement said foreign countries "are in no position to make improper remarks" over the handling of Liu's case, which Beijing sees as a domestic affair.

Hong Kong

Democracy activists and members of the public gathered outside China's liaison office in Hong Kong Thursday night to mourn Liu’s death and vent their anger at Beijing.

Police heavily guarded the area, letting only 10 people pass to the tribute area at a time. A line of mourners snaked down the pavement beside the building in western Hong Kong Island.

"This process has made Hong Kong people feel the Chinese authorities are inhumane and without any consideration for human rights," said veteran activist Richard Tsoi of the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organises the city's massive annual vigil commemorating the victims of the brutal Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing in 1989.

Ordinary members of the public also lined up to pay their respects.

"I'm really sad today. Liu Xiaobo only had peaceful demands," said office worker Daisy Lam, 55.

"If you had just a little bit of humanity you wouldn't treat a dying patient like this."

Political party Demosisto, led by pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong and young lawmaker Nathan Law, described China's treatment of Liu as "shameful".

It also called on the international community to "pay close attention to the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong people under Chinese authoritarian rule".

Nobel committee

"We find it deeply disturbing that Liu Xiaobo was not transferred to a facility where he could receive adequate medical treatment before he became terminally ill," Berit Reiss-Andersen, who chairs the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said in a statement.

"The Chinese government bears a heavy responsibility for his premature death."

Activists attend a candlelight vigil for the Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo in Sydney.
Activists attend a candlelight vigil for the Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo in Sydney.

United States

"Mr Liu dedicated his life to the betterment of his country and humankind, and to the pursuit of justice and liberty," US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement.

Tillerson also urged Beijing to free Liu's widow, the poet Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since 2010 but was allowed to be with him at the hospital where he died.

US President Donald Trump and his French counterpart offered praise for Chinese President Xi Jinping at a press conference Thursday, but avoiding comment or criticism over Chinese Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo’s death.

Trump described Xi as a friend and patriot, refraining from offering any remarks on the death of Liu,

Of Xi, Trump said: "He's a friend of mine. I have great respect for him.

"We've gotten to know each other very well. A great leader. He's a very talented man. I think he's a very good man. He loves China. I can tell you. He loves China."

France

 French President Emmanuel Macron described his first contacts with Xi as "extremely fruitful and positive".

The French leader later paid tribute to Liu in a tweet, praising him as "a freedom fighter" and saying his thoughts were with his family.

Germany

"I mourn Liu Xiaobo, the courageous fighter for human rights and freedom of expression," German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted on her behalf.

"His family has my deep sympathies."

Germany had said it was prepared to welcome Liu for medical treatment after he was transferred from prison to hospital after a terminal liver cancer diagnosis.

United Nations

"The human rights movement in China and across the world has lost a principled champion who devoted his life to defending and promoting human rights, peacefully and consistently, and who was jailed for standing up for his beliefs," the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said in a statement.

"Liu Xiaobo was the true embodiment of the democratic, non-violent ideals he so ardently advocated."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was "deeply saddened" but refrained from criticising China for refusing to allow the Nobel laureate to receive treatment abroad.

European Union

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and EU president Donald Tusk said in a joint statement that they had learned of Liu's death "with deep sadness".

"We appeal to the Chinese authorities to allow his wife, Ms Liu Xia and his family to bury Liu Xiaobo at a place and in a manner of their choosing, and to allow them to grieve in peace," Juncker and Tusk said.

"We call on the authorities to remove all restrictions on the movement and communications of his family members."

Britain

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson hit out at China for preventing Liu from seeking cancer treatment abroad.

"Liu Xiaobo should have been allowed to choose his own medical treatment overseas, which the Chinese authorities repeatedly denied him," Johnson said in a statement.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was "deeply saddened" but refrained from criticising China for refusing to allow the Nobel laureate to receive treatment abroad.

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