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China’s state news agency reports jailed Nobel laureate’s death

July 13, 2017

China’s state news agency reported in English the death of dissident Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo on Thursday, marking the first time Xinhua has mentioned him since his hospitalisation.

But the news of the 61-year-old democracy activist’s death from liver cancer while in custody remained absent from Xinhua’s main Chinese service more than an hour after it was published on the English-language wire.

An urgent single-paragraph report recalled that Liu was “convicted of subversion of state power” in 2009 but it makes no mention of his Nobel prize.

Chinese authorities tightly controlled information about Liu’s condition after disclosing last month that he was released on medical parole following a diagnosis of late-stage liver cancer.

The hospital where he received treatment, the First Hospital of China Medical University in the northeastern city of Shenyang, was heavily guarded and his family members had barely any contact with the outside world.

Following the initial announcement from the website of the Shenyang legal bureau, Xinhua as well as the state-run China Daily and Global Times newspapers published reports in English.

The Chinese internet censors nearly all mentions of the dissident, who spent decades in and out of detention.

He was arrested in 2008 after co-writing Charter 08, a bold petition that called for the protection of basic human rights and reform of China’s one-party Communist system.

A search of Xinhua’s archives from the last two decades produces zero Chinese-language reports mentioning Liu.

Prior to Thursday’s death announcement, Xinhua’s English wire had only mentioned him twice, both times in relation to China’s ties with Norway.

“China-Norway relations deteriorated since the Oslo-based Nobel Committee conferred the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize on convicted Chinese criminal Liu Xiaobo,” read a story in April.

The Global Times, which has published editorials asking the West to not “politicise” Liu’s treatment, did not mention his Nobel in its latest report.

China Daily noted the prize with the caveat that “China considers the award reflects poorly on the Nobel Committee, as Liu was convicted of criminal acts against the State before the prize was announced.”

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.