In an unprecedented move, the Chinese Foreign Ministry today removed questions related to Nobel Peace Prize victor Liu Xiaobo from the transcripts of its daily media briefings available on the official website.
The beefed-up presence of plainclothes officers was noticeable around the hospital ward and at nearby hotels where foreign reporters have been staying.
If the way Liu died is an indictment of China's repression, it also highlights the cravenness of Western leaders who were too cowed to raise his case in a meaningful manner.
Germany had offered to treat Liu as recently as Wednesday, calling for a "signal of humanity" from China. The authorities are on guard against a widening of his circle of support in China.
Liu, who has advanced liver cancer, is suffering from respiratory and renal failure as well as septic shock, the hospital said Wednesday. "We put forth our greatest effort, but we could not win your freedom while you were still living", Liu's friend and Beijing-based dissident Hu Jia said on Twitter. I fear not, any more than they forcefully spoke up for Liu Xiaobo himself. The government rebuffed their pleas, saying it was an internal matter.
The paper has cast Liu as an outsider marginalized from society whose cause has failed inside China.
Yu Jie, a longtime friend and a biographer, said Liu frequently gathered a small group of friends for frequent dinners at his favorite local Sichuan hot-pot restaurant, where he regaled younger intellectuals on literature and philosophy before returning home to write until dawn, as was his habit.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, a year after he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for inciting subversion.
In Taipei late last night, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said that Taiwan hoped that China could show self-confidence and push forward political reform in the wake of his passing.
Liu was sentenced to jail on December 25, 2009. "Protesting voices on Weibo are nearly not existent these days", Hu said.
He became only the third person to receive a Nobel Peace award while imprisoned by his own government, and the first to die in custody since tuberculosis killed Carl von Ossietzky, 48, a German pacifist, in 1938. "We are here, Xiaobo is here with us".
Some day after democracy has come to China, there will be a memorial in Tiananmen Square to Liu.
"By coming to Shenyang from Beijing, we're just trying to get closer to Xiaobo and Liu Xia, trying to be with him as he goes through this rough time", Zeng said in an interview in a nearby hotel room.
China, which has about 700 million people with access to the internet and the world's largest number of social media users, kept things silent - not a single word on Liu was allowed to slip through the censors. And don't underestimate the people.
"Since 1989, he has never ceased in the politics of struggle in China".
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