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Chinese Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo Dies At 61

An undated image of jailed Chinese dissident and civil rights activist Liu Xiaobo in Beijing, China

China's Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo has died while still in custody following a battle with cancer, Chinese authorities said, after officials ignored international pleas to let him spend his final days free and abroad.

The prominent democracy advocate died on July 13 at the age of 61, more than a month after he was transferred from prison to a heavily guarded hospital to be treated for late-stage liver cancer.

Authorities in the northeastern city of Shenyang said that Liu died three days after going into intensive care at a local hospital.

Liu's death silences a government critic who had become a symbol of China's growing crackdown on dissenting voices.

Liu is the first Nobel Peace Prize laureate to die in custody since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who passed away in a hospital while held by the Nazis in 1938.

Liu was arrested in 2008 after co-writing Charter 08, a petition that called for the protection of basic human rights and reform of China's political system.

He was sentenced to 11 years in prison in December 2009 for "subversion." At the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo in 2010 he was represented by an empty chair.

International human rights groups, Western governments, and local activists had urged the authorities to free Liu and grant his final wish to be treated abroad.

Germany had offered to treat Liu, calling for a "signal of humanity" from China. The United States also said it was willing to take him in.

But Chinese authorities claimed that Liu was receiving treatment from top Chinese doctors since being granted medical parole following his diagnosis in late May.

China's Foreign Ministry repeatedly said other countries should not interfere in Beijing's domestic affairs.

Earlier this month, Liu's Chinese doctors said he was not healthy enough to be sent abroad for treatment, a position that was contradicted by U.S. and German medical experts invited by the hospital to examine Liu's condition. The foreign doctors offered to treat Liu at hospitals in their home countries.

Human rights groups decried the way the government treated Liu, accusing the authorities of manipulating information about his health and refusing to let him leave.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, AP, and Reuters