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China 6 December 2005

Tribute to exiled journalist Liu Binyan, “China’s conscience,” dead at 80

Reporters Without Borders voiced deep sadness today at the death of leading Chinese writer and journalist Liu Binyan yesterday in a hospital in New Jersey, in the United States, after a long battle with cancer. He was 80.

The organisation said it was outraged by the Chinese government’s refusal to let him return to die in his own country. The Chinese media were not allowed to report the death of this long-time champion of free expression, who was persecuted in several Maoist purges.

“Even in death, Liu scared the Communist Party,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This regime has no pity or compassion for intellectuals who openly condemn the Communist Party’s corruption and authoritarianism. He will be remembered as a committed journalist, who was convinced that China needed freedom of expression.”

On his 80th birthday in February, the author of “Nightmare of the Red Mandarins” asked the Beijing authorities for permission to return home and end his days in China, which he left in 1988. The authorities refused.

Born in 1925 in the province of Jilin, Liu came from a modest family. After joining the Communist Party of China in 1944, he worked as a reporter for the daily China Youth News. In 1956, he began producing newspaper reports about corruption and bureaucracy and wrote a famous book, “Our newspaper’s inside story,” about the lack of press freedom.

He was a victim of the purges against “right-wingers” in 1957, and from then until 1978 he spent several spells in labour camps. Partially rehabilitated, he went back to writing about the Communist Party’s excesses and the plight of the very poor. He was the victim of another purge in 1987 and left China the following year. He was never allowed to go back.

There has been nothing in the Chinese media about his death and a search for “Liu Binyan” on the English-language site of the government news agency Xinhua yields no response.

Liu was ranked as an Asian hero by Time magazine in 2003. Professor Perry Link, Professor of Chinese Literature at princeton Univerity, described him as “China’s conscience” and as “fearless and incorruptible.”

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