PARIS (AFP) - World leaders hailed Chinese Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo as a brave fighter for human rights after his death on Thursday (July 13) following a battle with cancer.
Liu, a government critic and thorn in the side of the authorities for decades, died in custody, having been sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for "subversion".
His death also brought criticism for Chinese authorities who refused international pleas to let him receive treatment abroad.
"We find it deeply disturbing that Liu Xiaobo was not transferred to a facility where he could receive adequate medical treatment before he became terminally ill," Berit Reiss-Andersen, who chairs the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said in a statement.
"The Chinese government bears a heavy responsibility for his premature death." .
"Mr Liu dedicated his life to the betterment of his country and humankind, and to the pursuit of justice and liberty," US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement.
Tillerson also urged Beijing to free Liu's widow, the poet Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since 2010 but was allowed to be with him at the hospital where he died.
"I mourn Liu Xiaobo, the courageous fighter for human rights and freedom of expression," German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted on her behalf.
"His family has my deep sympathies."
Germany had said it was prepared to welcome Liu for medical treatment after he was transferred from prison to hospital after a terminal liver cancer diagnosis.
"The human rights movement in China and across the world has lost a principled champion who devoted his life to defending and promoting human rights, peacefully and consistently, and who was jailed for standing up for his beliefs," the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said in a statement.
"Liu Xiaobo was the true embodiment of the democratic, non-violent ideals he so ardently advocated."
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and EU president Donald Tusk said in a joint statement that they had learned of Liu's death "with deep sadness".
"We appeal to the Chinese authorities to allow his wife, Ms Liu Xia and his family to bury Liu Xiaobo at a place and in a manner of their choosing, and to allow them to grieve in peace," Juncker and Tusk said.
"We call on the authorities to remove all restrictions on the movement and communications of his family members."
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said she learnt about Liu's death "with great sadness".
"For several decades, Liu Xiaobo was a prominent voice for human rights and the future development in China," Solberg said in a statement.