I’m sad for my friend Liu Xiaobo, and for a China that can’t cherish its finest – Quartz

Liu Xiaobo, winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize and one of China’s greatest thinkers and pro-democracy activists, is in dire health, diagnosed with terminal liver cancer after serving nine years out of an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power.” I found out about my friend’s illness on Monday (June 26), as information from his lawyers spread across social media, close to a month after he was reportedly diagnosed with cancer.

The Liaoning Prison Administrative Bureau released a statement Monday saying that Liu has been granted medical treatment outside prison. It is not yet clear at this stage how much his legal status has changed, with some news outlets reporting that he is now free, and others that he has been only transferred for treatment.

What is known is that Liu is now in a Shenyang hospital in a serious condition, and that China’s repressive apparatus may finally get what it has always wanted from him: his absolute silence.

I first met Liu in 1988, when I was a very young student at Beijing Normal University, where I was learning Chinese and he was teaching Comparative Literature. A friend of mine, from the Chinese Literature Department, was adamant that he was the best professor in the whole of Beijing, and that I should go to his lectures. My language skills were pathetically insufficient for the task, but I sat through it all because I was enraptured by the excitement that he inspired in the classroom—not because I knew what he was debating. He spoke in bursts of excitement, with an occasional stammer that made him all the more determined to make his point forcefully. He smiled and cracked jokes making everyone laugh, showing a charisma rarely seen in Chinese university professors at the time. My own Chinese language classes were a soporific mash of morally uplifting stories with a Communist slant, and were often deserted by the students.

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