Liu Xiaobo, Chinese Nobel Peace laureate and political prisoner, dies at 61

Liu had been hospitalized for advanced liver cancer diagnosed in prison in May.

A man walks in front of a poster of Chinese dissident and peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo at an exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center in OsloODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images
Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia pose in this undated photo released by his family on October 3, 2010.REUTERS/Handout/Files

Officials say China's most prominent political prisoner, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, has died. He was 61.

Liu had been hospitalized for advanced liver cancer diagnosed in prison in May. The judicial bureau in the northeastern city of Shenyang said Thursday he died of multiple organ failure.

His supporters and foreign governments had urged China to allow him to receive treatment abroad, but Chinese authorities insisted he was receiving the best care possible for a disease that had spread throughout his body.

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Liu was imprisoned for the first time in connection with the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while serving his fourth and final prison sentence, for inciting subversion by advocating sweeping political reforms and greater human rights in China.

The career of Liu Xiaobo intersected various times with the country's pro-democracy movement until his final imprisonment in 2008. Liu was a lecturer, writer and literary critic.

Below is a look at milestones in the drive for greater Chinese political freedom, openness and accountability beginning with the 1978 democracy movement up to the present day, along with Liu's role.

Prominent dissident intellectual Liu Xiaobo pictured during a March 5, 1995 interview.REUTERS/Will Burgess
Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo is seen in this undated photo released by his families.Handout via REUTERS
A protester holds a candle next to a portrait of Chinese Nobel rights activist Liu Xiaobo demanding his release, during Chinese President Xi Jinping visiting, ahead of 20th anniversary of the city's handover from British to Chinese rule, in Hong Kong, China June 29, 2017.REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
Pro-democracy activists continue their sit-in demanding the release of Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo, outside China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, China July 12, 2017.REUTERS/Bobby Yip
A member of the Australian Tibetan community places a candle near a banner during a candlelight vigil for the Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo outside the Chinese consulate in Sydney, Australia, July 12, 2017.REUTERS/Steven Saphore
Members of the Australian Tibetan community stand together as they hold placards during a candlelight vigil for the Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo outside the Chinese consulate in Sydney, Australia, July 12, 2017.REUTERS/Steven Saphore
Pro-democracy activists continue their sit-in, demanding the release of Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo, outside China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, China July 13, 2017.REUTERS/Bobby Yip
Pro-democracy activists stage a sit-in protest demanding the release of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, outside China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, China July 10, 2017.REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo
A protester holds an image of jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo outside the Chinese Embassy in Oslo, Norway December 9, 2010.REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
The Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland (L) puts the diploma on the empty chair where Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo should sit during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, December 10, 2010.REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
An activist holds a placard demanding the release of Chinese Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo during a demonstration on the 20th anniversary of the territory's handover from Britain to Chinese rule, in Hong Kong, China July 1, 2017.REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
A pro-democracy activist joins a sit-in protest demanding the release of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, outside China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, China July 10, 2017.REUTERS/Bobby Yip
Pro-democracy activists stage a sit-in protest demanding the release of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, outside China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, China July 10, 2017.REUTERS/Bobby Yip
Members of the Australian Tibetan community stand together as they hold placards during a candlelight vigil for the Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo outside the Chinese consulate in Sydney, Australia, July 12, 2017.REUTERS/Steven Saphore
A protester holds a portrait of Chinese Nobel rights activist Liu Xiaobo as she step on portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping during a candlelight vigil demanding the release of Liu, ahead of 20th anniversary of the city's handover from British to Chinese rule, in Hong Kong, China June 29, 2017. Picture taken June 29, 2017.REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

— 1978 DEMOCRACY WALL — Citizens are briefly allowed to call for political and intellectual freedoms. Liu is a student of Chinese literature at Jilin University.

— 1986 STUDENT PROTESTS — Students protest for democracy, leading to the ouster of reformist Communist Party Secretary General Hu Yaobang. Liu gains renown as a writer and lecturer.

— 1989 TIANANMEN SQUARE PROTESTS — Massive student-led pro-democracy movement is crushed by the army. Liu leaves a job at Columbia University to join the protests and is jailed after the crackdown.

— 1998 DEMOCRACY PARTY OF CHINA — Efforts to form an opposition party result in several arrests and lengthy sentences for organizers. Liu is not involved after having been detained for issuing an appeal on behalf of those who took part in the Tiananmen protests.

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— 2008 CHARTER 08 — Liu joins other activists in drafting a call for greater freedom and democracy and an end to one-party rule. He is detained on Oct. 8, 2008, and sentenced a year later to 11 years in prison for inciting subversion of state power.

— 2010 NOBEL PEACE PRIZE — The honor is bestowed on Liu in recognition of his peaceful struggle for human rights and democracy, although, imprisoned, he is unable to attend. China responds with fury, but the award renews awareness of the struggle of China's pro-democracy activists.

— 2011 ARAB SPRING CRACKDOWN — Communist leaders disturbed by uprisings against authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and online calls for protests dubbed the "Jasmine Revolution" within China ratchet up monitoring of perceived dissidents and critics. Among those detained is activist artist Ai Weiwei, who was held for three months and then barred from leaving the country for a period.

— 2012 BLIND LAWYER ESCAPES — Chen Guangcheng, a blind, self-taught lawyer, makes a daring escape from house arrest in his rural town into U.S. diplomatic custody in Beijing, setting off a standoff over his case. Chinese officials later let Chen move to the U.S.

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— 2012-13 NEW CITIZENS MOVEMENT — Legal workers, civic groups and human rights defenders step up their activism against corruption and other abuses, leading to multiple arrests for crimes such as "disrupting public order."

— 2015 JULY 9 CRACKDOWN — The party steps up attacks on legal activists and others, detaining and arresting scores, some of whom are tried and given relatively light sentences as a warning to others.

— 2017 ILLNESS AND DEATH OF LIU XIAOBO — After eight years in prison, Liu is diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer and is moved to a hospital on medical parole. News of his condition is met with dismay and draws calls from supporters and foreign governments for him to be allowed to seek treatment overseas. China rebuffs the calls.

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