Who was political activist Liu Xiaobo?

Who was political activist Liu Xiaobo?

Who was political activist Liu Xiaobo?

Updated 14 July 2017, 8:05 AEST

Here's a quick guide on Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo's and his role in political activism.

You might have heard the latest news about Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who died in a Chinese hospital after spending weeks in a critical condition in hospital.

But you might not know about the role he's played in political activism.

Here's a quick guide.

Who was he?

Liu Xiaobo was a Chinese writer, professor, human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner who has been in the public eye since taking part in student protests in 1989 which culminated in the bloody Tiananmen Square Massacre.

He travelled from the US where he was studying and teaching to take part in the protests after seeing them reported on the news.

He was credited with saving hundreds of lives after negotiating with troops for a peaceful exit after the protests.

Chinese authorities saw him as a dissident and criminal, to pro-democracy activists he was a hero.

His activism didn't stop in 1989

The 61-year-old continued the call for major political reforms and the end of communist single-party rule in China, and was repeatedly jailed by Chinese authorities over the years.

After Tiananmen he was arrested before being released in 1991.

Once he left prison he campaigned for the release of others who had been jailed over their involvement in the protests.

That led to him being re-arrested and sentenced to three years in a labour camp.

He was released and re-arrested in 1995 and again in 1996.

While in prison in 1996 he married artist Liu Xia and was released in 1999.

He caught the eye of authorities in 2008, when he co-wrote a manifesto titled Charter 08.

The document promoted a democratic revamp of China's government and called for a new constitution and legislative democracy.

Just days before the work was going to be published online police raided his home and he was arrested.

It was a year before he was tried in court, and on Christmas Day in 2009, he was given a sentence of 11 years in prison for "inciting subversion of state power".

The EU, US and human rights groups said the trial was politically motivated.

What happened recently?

In May this year, he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer.

Late last month he was allowed out of prison on medical parole and was being treated in a hospital in the north-eastern city of Shenyang.

Activists called on China to release him so he could get palliative care treatment overseas, but Chinese doctors said he wasn't well enough to travel.

After international pressure Chinese authorities gave permission for two doctors — one from Germany and another from the US — to asses him.

They concluded that he was well enough to travel, despite the hospital saying he was in a critical condition.

On July 14, he died from multiple organ failure, according to Chinese authorities.

When did he win the Nobel Peace Prize?

He was awarded the prize back in 2010 for his "long and non-violent struggle to end one-party rule in China".

He wasn't able to attend the ceremony and it led to major diplomatic issues between Norway, who host the Nobel Prize, and China.

At the time, Nobel committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said the decision to award the peace prize to Mr Liu was not an attempt to enforce Western values on China.

"I would like to say that this is not a prize against China, this is a prize honouring those people in China," he said.

At least 18 nations including Cuba, Egypt and Iran boycotted the awards ceremony.

It wasn't long before his wife Liu Xia was placed under house arrest.

Lowy Institute for International Policy East Asia Program Director and expert in Chinese foreign policy, Merriden Varrall, said it was still an issue for the Government.

"China is certainly still feeling the sting, because the issue is that the Nobel Prize, which the Chinese would be enormously proud to receive, was given to someone who called for political reforms and the end of communist-party rule," Dr Varrall said.

"This is 'losing face' at its worst.

"It (was) a sense of humiliation as much as anger."

What's his connection to Australia?

After the crackdown in and around Tiananmen Square it's been reported that Mr Liu was driven to the Australian embassy.

An Australian diplomat said that he had to choose whether he was in or out after taking refuge with other activists.

He decided to stay in China.

"From what I understand, Liu was encouraged to take refuge in the Australian embassy after Tiananmen Square in 1989, but ultimately decided to stay in China," Dr Varrall said.

"He has had close friendships with some Australian academics like Geremie Barme, and spent time at the ANU as a visiting scholar.

"Some Australian politicians such as Christine Milne have made public overtures for his release."

Will this change anything?

"I think the larger question that this raises is what message it sends to people in China," Dr Varrall said.

"The government will be hoping the message is unequivocal.

"But will younger generations accept the party-state's position in this case, or could this have the unintended consequence of fomenting more discontent?

"Given the skill with which the government manages messaging, I imagine this will probably all go away before too long.

"It's not the first time a human rights activist or just an everyday person who wouldn't give up their land has been treated in this way, it happens all the time and everybody knows about it.

"It's just the first time one was given a Nobel Prize, and the symbolism of that is far more emphasised in Australia than it is in China."