Chinese authorities have in past years allowed at least two other prominent critics of the government to become gravely ill in detention and die there or in hospitals. In March 2014, Cao Shunli, an activist who had tried to participate in China’s Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council, died in a Beijing hospital after being arbitrarily detained in September 2013. Her family members had repeatedly warned that she was becoming gravely ill, but authorities only transferred her when she fell into a coma. And in July 2015, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a revered Tibetan lama who was serving a life sentence for “inciting separation of the state” following a trial that fell far short of international standards, died in detention after months of increasingly serious allegations that his health was deteriorating.

Several governments – including the United States, Canada, France, Taiwan – publicly offered to host Liu for treatment, while others, including the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Germany, have made statements calling for his release and right to receive medical treatment at a place of his choosing. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, met with Chinese officials on June 30 to discuss the case.

“No government should let the death of Liu Xiaobo pass without challenging Beijing’s mistreatment of this critical voice for human rights, calling for Liu Xia’s freedom, and pressing for the release of all those wrongfully detained across China,” Richardson said. “Governments should send a clear message to Beijing that the principles to which Liu Xiaobo devoted his life will thrive after his tragic death.”