Updated: Mar 13, 2022
Friends of China's most prominent dissident Liu Xiaobo have accused the Chinese Government of violating human rights after the activist died of multiple organ failures brought on by liver cancer.
61-year-old Liu was a prominent participant in the Tiananmen prodemocracy protests of 1989 and continued to call for political reform with his 2008 charter before being arrested. While in custody in 2010, he won the Nobel Peace Prize which was awarded to an empty chair in his absence.
Now, in a controversial step sure to anger Beijing and to honor Mr. Liu, some of his closest friends and colleagues are renewing calls for greater democracy in China.
One of Mr. Liu's last wishes was to leave China and get medical treatment in Germany or America for his advanced lung cancer. That request was denied by Chinese National Security that said the care he was getting was adequate.
The head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awards the peace prize, said the Chinese Government bore a heavy responsibility for his premature death.
His colleague and close friend, retired Professor Ai Xiaoming, said even in death the Chinese authorities feared his voice and would not allow him to go overseas.
Few inside China know of Mr. Liu and Chinese state media has ignored the story of his impending death.
Nicolas Benquelin, the director of the Asian program at Amnesty International said his treatment showed China was still a brutal regime.
The last Nobel laureate to die in state custody was under Nazi Germany in 1938.
"This will be a reminder that beneath the veneer of normalcy there is a very effective and repressive machine that is crushing dissent and threat to the absolute power of the Communist Party," Mr. Benquelin said.
Mr. Liu was imprisoned for co-authoring the manifesto called Charter 08, calling for sweeping democratic reforms.
Ai Xiaoming was one of the first to back the charter and has renewed calls for it to be implemented.
"I'm asking for political reform, asking for human rights, freedom and democracy," Ms Ai said.
She said she could not see it happening under President Xi Jinping but "it shows the direction for the future and I believe it will generate a forum for people to discuss".
These demands could get the Guangzhou resident in trouble but she said it was a way to honour Mr. Liu's memory. Other friends the ABC spoke to also backed these sentiments.
"I cannot care anymore because Liu Xiaobo is dying," Ms Ai said.
Mr. Liu is unlikely to get a proper funeral service or burial. Ms Ai said the Chinese state did not want his grave turning into a shrine.
"There might be some ceremony but only for his close family members to say goodbye for the last time. I'm so sad about this," she said.
Mr. Liu's friends said his legacy would live on, and Ms Ai said others were ready to take up his cause.
"He set a great example for intellectuals in China, and for next generation, that he sacrificed his life for human rights for freedom of speech in China."