US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday mourned the death of Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo and called on the Chinese government to release his wife from house arrest and allow her to leave the country.
61-year-old Liu, who was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize while in jail and was represented by an empty chair at the ceremony in Oslo, died today due to multiple organ failure following a battle with cancer while still in custody.
"In his fight for freedom, equality, and constitutional rule in China, Liu Xiaobo embodied the human spirit that the Nobel Prize rewards. In his death, he has only reaffirmed the Nobel Committee's selection," Tillerson said in a statement.
"I join those in China and around the world in mourning the tragic passing of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died while serving a lengthy prison sentence in China for promoting peaceful democratic reform," he said.
Liu dedicated his life to the betterment of his country and humankind, and to the pursuit of justice and liberty, Tillerson said in a statement.
He was sentenced to 11 years in jail for his strident opposition to the one party rule of the Communist Party of China. He served eight years in jail before he was diagnosed with cancer.
"My heartfelt condolences go out to Liu's wife Liu Xia and all of his loved ones. I call on the Chinese government to release Liu Xia from house arrest and allow her to depart China, according to her wishes," Tillerson said.
Noting that the world grieves the loss of Liu, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi termed his death as a tragedy.
"On this day, the world grieves the loss of Liu Xiaobo one of the great moral voices of our time. His clarion call for democracy and human rights in China represented the best hopes of humankind; his courage became a poignant symbol for freedom-loving people across the globe," Pelosi said.
As Speaker, Pelosi had attended the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway as part of the official delegation on behalf of Xiaobo and his wife.
"Liu Xiaobo's death is a tragedy and a deep affront to the basic notions of justice and human dignity. The role that poor medical care in prison played in his death and the cruelty of confining a dying man in captivity, away from his family and friends should disturb us all," she said.
"His arrest for the so-called crime of putting his political views into writing is a sobering reminder of China's shameful disregard for basic freedoms," Pelosi said.