Liu Xia: The unpolitical poet who became a dissident's wife

Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo in a hospital bed in July 2017

Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo in a hospital bed in July 2017

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate who spent his last eight years as a prisoner of conscience died at a hospital in Shenyang, China.

The leader of the Norwegian Nobel committee on Thursday accused Beijing of bearing "a heavy responsibility" for Liu's death, while the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said China's treatment of him was "wrong".

Answering a barrage of questions on Friday over the death of Liu, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China had lodged protests with certain countries for interfering in its judicial sovereignty.

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". "The Chinese government's arrogance, cruelty, and callousness are shocking-but Liu's struggle for a rights-respecting, democratic China will live on", said Human Rights Watch's China director Sophie Richardson.

Two pictures were positioned prominently in the hearing room — one of Liu and the other of an empty chair with his Nobel Peace Prize placed where he would have been sitting if he had been allowed to attend the 2010 ceremony.

Liu Xiaobo had held fast to his belief that a single-party dictatorship was not the best path for China, but rather democracy, a separation of powers and the rule of law. He served three prison sentences in the 1990s, totalling nearly five years.

He is the only Chinese citizen to receive the award.

Following Liu Xiaobo's release on medical parole last month, the dissident requested to receive treatment overseas - an unfulfilled wish that friends believed was for Liu Xia's sake. As tributes rolled in Friday to mourn China's most famous political prisoner, a newspaper published by the ruling Communist Party dismissed Liu as a pawn of the West whose legacy will soon fade. Reporting his death, CCTV said Liu had been "jailed for engaging in activities created to overthrow the Chinese government".

"I saw a brief that [said] China's regime deliberately choose not to treat Liu Xiaobo's cancer early", he said.

"Liu lived in an era when China witnessed the most rapid growth in recent history, but he attempted to confront Chinese mainstream society under Western support", it said.

Yang denounced the way Liu was "slowly murdered by the regime in front of the world", and said the global community must hold Beijing accountable.

The political manifesto, which was endorsed by more than 10,000 intellectuals, calls for an end to China's one-party system and establishment of a new republic comprising a "federation" of regions and political communities, with genuine participation from the public.

The Swiss foreign ministry has called on the Chinese government to allow Liu's wife, Xia, full burial rights and to guarantee her freedom of movement.

Tsai, who is loathed by Beijing for her refusal to endorse its view that Taiwan is Chinese territory, wrote on her Facebook page that Liu's passing would be marked by all those around the world concerned with Chinese human rights. "For [China], they do not want to highlight Liu Xiaobo because he is a powerful voice for freedom and against tyranny", Cruz said.

Rights group Amnesty International has started a petition for her release, saying "it's time the Chinese authorities stop cruelly punishing" the artist.

Liu Xia has been under house arrest since 2010 and only reunited with her husband last month when he was released on medical parole.

However, Cohen said he feared Beijing's persecution of the dissident's wife, Liu Xia, would continue as it fought to prevent her becoming a symbol of political resistance and freedom of expression.

"If there is an issue that should unite us all, it is that the wife a Nobel peace laureate speaking out for peace and democracy should not be kept hostage in Communist China". Link asked, a reference to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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