Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo died on Thursday from multiple organ failure, the authorities said, having not been allowed to leave the country for treatment for late-stage liver cancer as he wished.
Liu, 61, was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” after he helped write a petition known as “Charter 08″ calling for sweeping political reforms.
He was recently moved from prison to a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang to be treated.
The Shenyang Bureau of Justice said in a brief statement on its website that Liu had suffered multiple organ failure and efforts to save him had failed.
Despite being given multiple forms of treatment, his illness had continued to worsen, it added.
The hospital treating him confirmed in a separate statement the cause of death.
The leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awards the peace prize, said the Chinese government bore a heavy responsibility for his death.
“We find it deeply disturbing that Liu Xiaobo was not transferred to a facility where he could receive adequate medical treatment before he became terminally ill,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen.
“The Chinese Government bears a heavy responsibility for his premature death,” she said in an emailed statement.
Rights groups and Western governments had urged China to allow Liu and his wife, Liu Xia, to leave the country to be treated abroad, as Liu had said he wanted.
But the government had warned repeatedly against interference and said Liu was being treated by renowned Chinese cancer experts.
Beijing did allow two foreign doctors, from the United States and Germany, to visit Liu on Saturday and they later said they considered it was safe for him to be moved overseas.
The doctors said Liu and his family had requested that the remainder of his care be provided in Germany or the United States.
Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty said in a statement that efforts must now be made to ensure his wife is no longer persecuted, adding Liu had fought tirelessly for human rights.
“He did so in the face of the most relentless and often brutal opposition from the Chinese government. Time and again they tried to silence him, and time and again they failed,” Shetty said.