A Life Lived in Truth

For the last eight years of Liu Xiaobo’s life, the Chinese authorities robbed him of his liberty and his dignity. But in the state-enforced silence surrounding Liu’s stage-managed death, the words of his Nobel Prize lecture ring out even louder: “Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth.”

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BERLIN – The news that Liu Xiaobo, China’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate and most high-profile dissident, was being released on medical parole was chilling news to his many friends and supporters around the world. We all know that the Chinese government releases political prisoners for medical treatment only when their death is imminent. Liu’s death on July 13, just days after exchanging a prison cell for a hospital bed, confirmed our worst fears.

Those fears were based on harsh experience. Liu joins a long list of Chinese political prisoners who have died as a result of maltreatment or lack of timely treatment while in detention.

When Li Hong, the former editor of Zhejiang News, was jailed for “inciting state subversion” in 2007, he entered prison in good health. Three years later, he was released on medical parole, a paralyzed shadow of his former self. He died shortly afterwards in a hospital bed, surrounded by security officers.

Likewise, the human rights activist Cao Shunli was arrested for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” in 2013 while on her way to attend a training program in Geneva. She was denied medical care after falling ill in detention and was hospitalized only once she had slipped into a coma. She died a few months later, hooked up to a ventilator.