The Latest: US urges China to release wife of Liu Xiaobo

The Latest on the death of imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who passed away Thursday night in the northeastern city of Shenyang following a battle with liver cancer (all times local):

11:50 p.m.

The United States is calling on China's government to release the wife of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo from house arrest following his death.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China should free Liu Xia and let her leave China as she wishes. He sent condolences over Liu's death to her and other loved ones.

Tillerson said the world mourns Liu's "tragic passing." He said Liu, China's most prominent political prisoner, dedicated his life to improving China and humankind and to pursuing justice and liberty.

Tillerson said Liu "embodied the human spirit that the Nobel Prize rewards" by fighting for freedom, equality and constitutional rule in China.

The U.S. had urged China in recent days to let Liu seek medical care at a location of his choice. China did not grant that request.


11:45 p.m.

Norway's Nobel Committee has mourned the death of Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo and leveled harsh criticism at the "free world" for its "hesitant, belated reactions" to his serious illness and imprisonment.

The organization's chairwoman, Berit Reiss-Andersen, says the Chinese government "bears a heavy responsibility for his premature death."

Liu, who died Thursday, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 but was unable to attend the award ceremony because he had been sentenced to prison by Chinese officials for allegedly inciting subversion.

Reiss-Andersen said in a statement that in the committee's view, "he had not committed any criminal act ... his trial and imprisonment were unjust."

She said, "It is a sad and disturbing fact that the representatives of the free world, who themselves hold democracy and human rights in high regard, are less willing to stand up for those rights for the benefit of others."


11:40 p.m.

Two Chinese doctors who led the treatment of Liu Xiaobo's advanced liver cancer say he was accompanied by his family when he died.

The doctors, speaking at a briefing Thursday in the northeastern city of Shenyang where the hospital is located, said Liu died at 5:35 p.m.

Tumor expert Teng Yue'e, who was introduced as Liu's main physician, said Liu's wife, two brothers and other family members were by his side when he died.

Teng said Liu died peacefully.

The doctor's account could not be independently verified. Liu's wife and other family members have been closely guarded by Chinese authorities and unreachable by friends and the media.


11:30 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is paying tribute to Liu Xiaobo as a "courageous fighter for civil rights and freedom of opinion."

Liu, who was serving an 11-year prison sentence on subversion charges, died Thursday night in the Chinese city of Shenyang following a battle with liver cancer.

A German doctor and an American colleague visited Liu at a hospital last weekend, and the German government urged China on Wednesday to allow the Nobel Peace Prize laureate to leave the country for treatment abroad.

Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert quoted the German leader in a tweet as saying, "I mourn Liu Xiaobo, the courageous fighter for civil rights and freedom of opinion." She offered "deep condolences to his family."

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also offered his condolences. He said Liu "only wanted the best for his country and will not be forgotten."


11:00 p.m.

Prominent pro-democracy activists and other supporters have gathered outside the Chinese central government's representative office in Hong Kong to mourn the death of the country's most prominent political prisoner, Liu Xiaobo, and call for his wife Liu Xia to be freed from house arrest.

Pictures of Liu Xiaobo and placards reading "Free Liu Xia" were placed on a makeshift altar as mourners chanted slogans and signed a condolence book.

Unlike on the Chinese mainland, where the entirely state-controlled media were forbidden to mention his name, Liu became a prominent figure within the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong following his imprisonment in 2009 and award of the Nobel Peace Prize the following year.

Liu's face was emblazoned on countless signs during Hong Kong's annual pro-democracy rally and march on Saturday, underscoring how he had become a unifying figure among the opposition in Hong Kong that has been criticized relentlessly by the territory's leaders.


10:30 p.m.

Human rights advocates and pro-democracy activists have expressed deep sorrow over the death of imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo and called for his wife, Liu Xia, to be permitted to leave the country.

Wang Dan, a prominent leader of the 1989 pro-democracy protest movement on Beijing's Tiananmen Square, tweeted that governments and people worldwide must press for Liu Xia to be allowed to leave China, where she has been held under extralegal house arrest.

Wang wrote, "Xiaobo, my beloved teacher, my dear brother, you accepted too much hardship, rest easy."

In Hong Kong, prominent democracy activist Joshua Wong tweeted, "We will strive to carry forward his legacy to fight for democracy in HK and China."

Internationally acclaimed artist and activist Ai Weiwei tweeted: "Rest in peace. We are here, Xiaobo is here with us."

Fellow Beijing activist Hu Jia tweeted regrets that "we were not able to obtain your freedom during your life."

"The world grieves for you. Your unfulfilled wish is our mission," Hu wrote.

John Kamm, founder of the Dui Hua Foundation in San Francisco who has advised U.S. administrations on Chinese human rights issues, wrote that Liu's demise "is a waystation on the road to freedom of the Chinese people."