Liu Xiaobo (1955-2017) was a brilliant writer and committed activist. As President of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, he was a friend and compatriot for writers all over the world who struggle against tyranny using words as their sole weapon.

Liu Xiaobo, New York, 1989. Images courtesy of Bei Ling. Click to enlarge.

For the act of penning seven sentences, China punished Liu Xiaobo with 11 years in prison. After his arrest in December 2008, PEN America honored Liu with the 2009 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, kicking off an international campaign for his freedom that culminated in his receipt—in absentia—of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

China’s refusal to honor Liu Xiaobo’s last wish to travel overseas for treatment and its decision to hold him incommunicado during his dying days are a cruel epitaph in the tale of a powerful regime’s determination to crush a brave man who dared challenge a government that sustains its rule through suppression and fear. Liu Xiaobo was not afraid. His courage in life and in death is an inspiration to those who stand for freedom in China and everywhere.