CECC Commissioners Issue Statements on the Death of Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo

CECC Commissioners Rubio, Smith, Feinstein, Cotton, Merkley, Lankford, Daines, Young, Walz, Pittenger, Kaptur, Hultgren and Lieu Issue Statements Mourning the Death of Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo

Commissioners ‘Deeply Saddened’ by the Loss of Liu Xiaobo and Urge Renewed Efforts to Seek the Unconditional Release and Protection of His Wife Liu Xia

Media Contact: Scott Flipse, 202-226-3777

July 13, 2017

(Washington, DC)—On news of the death of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Chris Smith, the chair and cochair, respectively, of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), issued the following statements, along with CECC Commissioners, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and James Lankford (R-OK), Steve Daines (R-MT) and Todd Young (R-IN) and Representatives Tim Walz (D-MN), Robert Pittenger (R-NC), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), and Ted Lieu (D-CA). The Commissioners are deeply saddened by the loss of this great champion of freedom and democracy and the Chairs continued to urge the Administration to continue to seek the release of Liu Xia, Liu Xiaobo’s wife, from illegal home confinement.

“The news of Liu Xiaobo’s death today is beyond tragic—for his beloved wife Liu Xia, for his family, and for the millions of supporters of his courageous efforts to champion human rights and democracy in China,” said Senator Rubio.  “As we mourn Liu Xiaobo’s death and pray for his family, there are urgent matters that require high-level diplomatic attention in the coming days.  Dr. Liu’s family must be given his remains and permitted to honor and bury him as they see fit.  Liu Xia must immediately be granted an exit visa and permitted to leave China for a country of her choosing.  There should be an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Dr. Liu’s death, his treatment in detention, the timing of the diagnosis of his late-stage liver cancer, and countless other questions that need to be answered.  The Chinese authorities complicit in his unjust imprisonment and death should be immediately sanctioned and their assets frozen under the Global Magnitsky Act. I urge the Trump Administration to make these matters high priorities and to convey in no uncertain terms to the Chinese government that their shameful treatment of this peaceful hero, who championed the very ideals that are at the foundation of America’s own experiment in self-government, will have real and lasting consequences.”

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of this great champion of freedom and democracy and we pray for his friends and family, particularly his wife Liu Xia.  It is an unspeakable tragedy that Liu Xiaobo’s unjust detention in 2008 became a death sentence—the blame should lay squarely on the Chinese government and they should be held accountable.  His death is truly an unwashable stain, as Liu Xiaobo is the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in state custody since Carl von Ossietzky died after being detained in a Nazi concentration camp,” said Representative Smith. “Liu Xiaobo was not afraid to speak truth to power despite sometimes fierce and brutal repression, and the international community must find its voice now.  Maybe this will be part of his great legacy—unified condemnation of Beijing’s brutal silencing of all those who carry the torch of freedom in China.  The world must not forget Liu Xiaobo, or Liu Xia—the Chinese government and Communist Party should be confronted with his ideas and memory at every occasion.” 

“Liu Xiaobo deserved to be celebrated as an inspirational leader who sought peaceful reform and a democratic China. Liu Xiaobo deserved to be known as a hero in his country, not censored by his government. Liu Xiaobo deserved the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in 2010 during his fourth prison sentence. Instead, Liu Xiaobo died today, under guard in a hospital, largely unknown by his countrymen,” said Senator Feinstein. “Liu’s offense wasn’t murder or corruption—he was persecuted and thrown into solitary confinement because he spoke out for a better world. And Liu Xia, his wife, has been held under house arrest, her only crime that she married Liu Xiaobo. China’s treatment of this man was shameful, far beneath the dignity of a world power. I hope that Liu Xiaobo’s legacy won’t be forgotten.”

“To deprive a man of treatment and watch him die a slow, painful death is an outrage against humanity. But the Communist regime was so cruel toward Liu Xiaobo because its leaders knew, in their hearts, the power of his message,” said Senator Cotton. “This was a man who stood for freedom of thought, rule of law, and democratic values in the most oppressive of environments. He had a spine of steel, and in setting his face against tyranny, he inspired millions to rally to his banner. From the pavement of Tiananmen Square to his deathbed, he showed a quiet but formidable courage that will live on in the hearts of all Chinese people who long to be free.”

"In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance lecture, delivered in absentia during his imprisonment, Liu Xiaobo wrote, ‘What I demanded of myself was this:  Whether as a person or as a writer, I would lead a life of honesty, responsibility, and dignity.’  My sadness at Mr. Liu’s death is outweighed only by my appreciation of the meaningful life he lived,” said Senator Merkley. “The memory of a man who sought to ‘dispel hatred with love’ will not be forgotten, and the honesty, responsibility, and dignity with which he lived will continue to inspire people not only in China but also throughout the world.” 

“As the world takes a moment to reflect on the life of Liu Xiaobo, we are reminded of just how precious our liberties are here in the United States and that there are many societies which have yet to reap the full benefits of freedom and democracy,” said Senator Lankford. “We must press on in spreading these uplifting and empowering values of respect for life and liberty, both at home and abroad.”

“I am saddened by the loss of Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo and commend his legacy of working to advance human rights,” said Senator Daines. “Today’s tragic news underscores the extensive challenges that persist in promoting democracy and human rights in China and around the world. I urge China to grant Liu Xia full control over any funeral arrangements for her late husband. She should also be allowed to visit anyone and travel anywhere she wishes.”

“I join the world in mourning the death of Liu Xiaobo.  His life and example remind us of the universal desire to be free and that America is at our best when we strive to help others enjoy the freedoms that we enjoy,” said Senator Young.

“I am deeply saddened by the tragic death of Liu Xiaobo, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who dedicated his life to improving human rights in China. Imprisoned by the Chinese government for his courageous activism and later denied medical treatment abroad for liver cancer, his passing sheds a shameful light on the Chinese Communist Party and underscores the long way it has yet to go to recognize, respect and uphold human rights,” said Representative Walz. “Mr. Liu taught us that a government which views its citizens as enemies poisons the spirit of its nation. Let us all heed this lesson and strive to build tolerance and humanity here at home and across the globe.”

“Today is a very somber reminder of the tragic human rights conditions that continue in China. While China is the world’s second largest economy, their government has virtually no regard for freedom of choice, conscious, affiliation, and information,” said Representative Pittenger. “China continues to persecute those who believe in God, journalists, religious minorities, women with forced abortion policies, and political dissidents.  The Chinese government can never be considered a true peer on the global stage until they address their egregious human rights violations.”

“Today, we honor the life and achievements of Liu Xiaobo. From the Tiananmen Square movement till his passing, he fought fervently for freedom and democratic ideals — often willing to sacrifice his own liberty for the cause,” said Representative Kaptur. “His life should encourage us all to recommit to upholding democracy here and around the world. My prayers go out to his friends and family, as well as his wife, Liu Xia.”

“Liu Xiaobo should never have been imprisoned in the first place, and his death is a tragic end to an unjust saga,” said Representative Hultgren. “China should be ashamed of its actions and immediately release Zhu Yufu and the many others like him unjustly imprisoned for exercising fundamental democratic and human rights.”

"Liu Xiaobo was a champion for human rights, freedom of expression, and peaceful democratic change in China.  His life's work remains aspirational to many in China and around the world," said Representative Lieu. "One of the reasons he won the Nobel Peace Prize was because he eloquently spoke truth to power. We must continue to pursue Liu's vision and work to secure the ability for his wife, Liu Xia, to leave China for a country of her choosing."


The CECC Chairs issued a statement urging the immediate humanitarian transfer of Liu Xiaobo on June 26, 2017 and worked together on a concurrent resolution urging the Administration to work for his unconditional release.  H. Con. Res. 67 passed the House of Representatives unanimously on June 29, 2017.          

The CECC has closely monitored Liu Xiaobo’s efforts to promote democracy, his arrest, and sentencing.  On December 10, 2010, Liu, a writer, former literature professor, human rights activist, and one of the chief authors of Charter 08, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia for his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” He was the first Chinese national and resident in China to receive the prestigious award.   However, during the awards ceremony, his chair remained empty and he was unable to claim his prize; he was serving an 11-year sentence, after being found guilty of “inciting subversion of state power.” 

His wife, the artist and poet Liu Xia, was placed under illegal home confinement in Beijing shortly after the Nobel Committee’s announcement of the prize in October 2010.  She remains there almost seven years later, despite never having been charged with a crime.  Troubling reports indicate that her health has deteriorated during her years of arbitrary confinement.

Earlier this year, the CECC launched an initiative called “Free China’s Heroes,” in which individual political prisoners were highlighted to raise awareness about the specifics of their cases and the status of their unjust imprisonment.  Liu Xiaobo, who was initially detained seven years ago on December 8, 2008, was the first prisoner featured.  His case is also part of the Commission’s Political Prisoner Database (PPD) that contains searchable records on more than 1,400 political and religious prisoners currently known or believed to be detained or imprisoned in China.