China: Five years after the death of press freedom defender Liu Xiaobo, RSF calls on democracies to step up pressure on the regime

On the fifth anniversary of the passing of Nobel Peace Prize laureate and press freedom defender Liu Xiaobo, who died of an untreated cancer while in detention, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the international community to finally step up pressure on the regime for it to put an end to its policy of censorship and media surveillance.

Freedom. Freedom is at the core of universal human values. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom in where to live, and the freedoms to strike, to demonstrate, and to protest, among others, are the forms that freedom takes. Without freedom, China will always remain far from civilised ideals.” (Charter 08  initially signed by 303 academics and intellectuals on December 10, 2008).

Five years after the passing of 2004 RSF Award laureate and 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Liu Xiaobo, who embodied the Chinese people’s fight for press freedom and died on 13th of July 2017 of an untreated cancer while in detention, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the international community to significantly step up pressure on the Chinese regime to put an end to its policy of censorship and media surveillance and to ensure the full exercise of press freedom, a right enshrined in the Article 35 ​​of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.

Liu Xiaobo, political commentator and writer, author of nearly 800 essays, was a long-time advocate of political reforms and human rights, including press freedom. During the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, Liu had taken an active role as a pro-democracy protester and launched a hunger strike in support of the students. In the following years, in retaliation for his writing and activism, he was imprisoned many times, sent to reeducation facilities and put in house arrest.

Sentenced to 11 years for calling for press freedom

In 2009, Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power”  for contributing to the Charter 08, a 19-point program initially signed by 303 academics and intellectuals that called for greater political freedoms, including the enforcement of press freedom. Liu died in 2017, six weeks after diagnosis that he was terminally ill and the regime's refusal of overseas treatment. The regime also persecuted Liu Xiaobo’s widow, poet and photographer Liu Xia, who was kept under house arrest from 2010 to 2018 until she was finally allowed to exile in Germany. 

In China, detained journalists are almost systematically subjected to mistreatment and denied medical care: in 2017, political commentator Yang Tongyan died from an untreated cancer while in detention. Kunchok Jinpa, a leading source of information about Tibet for journalists, died in 2021 as a result of ill-treatment in prison.

In 2021 RSF published an unprecedented investigative report entitled ‘The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China’, which reveals the campaign of repression led by Beijing against journalism and the right to information worldwide.

China ranks 175th out of 180 countries in the 2022 RSF World Press Freedom Index and currently detains at least 123 journalists and press freedom defenders.

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175/180
Score : 25.17
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