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The relatively sudden death of Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, amounted to a great loss.The 61-year-old Liu, a former literary critic and high-profile champion of human rights and nonviolent resistance, spent the last eight years of his life behind bars on trumped-up charges of "subversion". His real offense was to call for democracy in China. It might seem inexplicable that China, which has spent a fortune in recent years to project "soft power" abroad, would be willing to place itself in such company. But, as much as they aspire to a leading role on the world stage, China's leaders want to suppress dissent even more. No major Western leader has publicly denounced the Chinese government's conduct.China's censors have worked overtime to ensure that Liu's death is a nonevent.The Chinese regime could have withstood such embarrassment, just as it could have survived an international uproar. At some point, probably within the next two decades, the combination of internal rot and external pressure from a population demanding freedom will bring down one-party rule in China – and, one hopes, usher in the kind of open society that Liu fought for all his life.
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