Hundreds of Hongkongers, activists and pro-democracy lawmakers attended a vigil outside Beijing’s office in Hong Kong on Thursday night to mourn the passing of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Sentenced to 11 years in prison for inciting “subversion of state power” in 2009, Liu passed away earlier in the evening following a battle with liver cancer while on medical parole. He was 61.

Liu was jailed after he co-wrote Charter ’08, a manifesto calling for democratic reforms in China. He was also known for his role in the 1989 Tiananmen protests in Beijing and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.

Attendees sign a book of condolences. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

Thursday was the fourth day of a relay sit-in by activists outside the China Liaison Office – the premises of Beijing’s organ in the city. Hundreds of Hongkongers began arriving for the memorial event at around 10pm, following the announcement of Liu’s death.

“The body of Xiaobo will be buried or cremated, but his spirit will live on,” said Albert Ho, chairperson of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China.

“Liu was the respected social conscience of our generation… he dedicated his life. His Charter 08 will be a monument in the fight for democracy and freedom.”

Albert Ho (centre). Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

Ho also called for an end to Beijing’s house arrest of Liu’s wife, the poet Liu Xia, who was allowed to visit him in the hospital. “You must live… to fight for the dream that Liu Xiaobo did not accomplish,” Ho said.

Liu was the first Nobel Peace laureate to die in custody since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who passed away in a hospital while held by the Nazis in 1938.

China has ignored international calls for Liu to be allowed to leave the country for treatment. Authorities said he was getting the best possible care from domestic doctors.

Following news of his death, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said that China bears a “heavy responsibility” for the premature death of the peace prize winner. Liu was represented by an empty chair at the awards ceremony in 2010.

Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also hailed him as “the true embodiment of the democratic, non-violent ideals he so ardently advocated,” while the US said he “dedicated his life to the betterment of his country and humankind, and to the pursuit of justice and liberty.”

Both called for the release of his wife.

At the vigil in Hong Kong, supporters paid their respects by bringing flowers and signing a book of condolences. Some wore black and carried white flowers.

Mr. Wong, an elderly man who moved to Hong Kong from the mainland three decades ago, told HKFP that he rushed to attend the vigil from his home.

“I told my taxi driver where I was going and he told me I didn’t need to pay my fare. He told me to cause a racket, to scream at the Chinese Communist Party on his behalf,” he said.

“That’s why I’m here. This is the CCP’s fault. There is blood on their hands. They let him die.”

Additional reporting: Jun Pang. 


Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.