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  1. ITV Report

Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, dies aged 61

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has died aged 61.

China's most prominent political prisoner had been treated in hospital for advanced liver cancer which was diagnosed in May.

The literary critic, writer, and human rights activist suffered multiple organ failure, the Chinese judicial bureau said.

His supporters and foreign governments had urged China to allow him to receive treatment abroad, but Chinese authorities insisted he was receiving the best care possible for a disease that had spread throughout his body.

Mr Liu had been in prison on political charges at the time of his diagnosis, but was jailed for the first time in connection with the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, which he called a "major turning point" in his life.

At the time he was a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York but returned early to China in May 1989 to join the movement that was sweeping the country and which the Communist Party regarded as a grave challenge to its authority.

When the Chinese government sent troops and tanks into Beijing to quash the protests on the night of June 3-4, Mr Liu persuaded some students to leave the square rather than face down the army, potentially saving their lives.

The military crackdown killed hundreds, possibly thousands, of people and heralded a more repressive era.

Mr Liu became one of hundreds of Chinese imprisoned for crimes linked to the demonstrations.

Protesters mourn the 61-year-old's death. Credit: AP

Mr Liu was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for "his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China", and at the time was serving his fourth and final prison sentence for inciting subversion by advocating sweeping political reforms and greater human rights in the country.

The award enraged the Chinese Government which condemned it as a political farce.

Within days, Mr Liu's wife, artist and poet Liu Xia, was put under house arrest, despite not being convicted of any crime.

China also punished Norway, even though its government has no say over the independent Nobel panel's decisions.

China suspended a bilateral trade deal and restricted imports of Norwegian salmon, and relations only resumed in 2017.

Dozens of Mr Liu's supporters were prevented from leaving the country to accept the award on his behalf.

Instead, Mr Liu's absence at the prize-giving ceremony in Oslo was marked by an empty chair, with another empty chair for Liu Xia.

Mr Liu pictured in 2005. Credit: AP

After spending nearly two years in detention following the Tiananmen crackdown, Mr Liu was detained for the second time in 1995 after drafting a plea for political reform.

Later that year, he was detained a third time after co-drafting Opinion On Some Major Issues Concerning Our Country Today.

That resulted in a three-year sentence to a labour camp, during which time he married Liu Xia.

Released in 1999, he joined the international literary and human rights organisation PEN and continued advocating for human rights and democracy.

Mr Liu is survived by his wife and by his son from his first marriage.