Liu Xiaobo
Nobel laureate Liu XiaoboReuters

China released the Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, after he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer last month, Liu's lawyers told AFP on Monday. The 61-year-old laureate has been granted medical parole by the Chinese government.

Liu, who was sentenced to serve 11 years in prison, has completed 8 years of his jail term and was diagnosed with terminal cancer on May 23. He was released days after the diagnosis.

So Who is Liu Xiaobo, and why had the Chinese government put him in jail?

Liu Xiaobo, a writer and a democracy campaigner, was jailed in 2009 for "subversion" after spearheading a bold petition for democratic reforms in China. 

He was arrested in 2008 after he co-write Charter 08, which was a petition that called for the protection of basic human rights and the reform of China's one-party communist system. Charter 08 was subsequently posted online and demanded the abolition of subversion as an offence in China's criminal code.

The international community has been calling for his release for years.

A pro-democracy protester holds a poster of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo during a rally urging for the release of jailed Liu and his wife Liu Xia in Hong Kong on December 25, 2013.Reuters

Nobel prize winner

Liu, who holds a doctorate in Chinese literature, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a year after he was jailed, making him one of the only three people to have won the prestigious award while they were jailed by their own government.

China had strongly condemned his Nobel prize, and said that they deemed his award as unwanted foreign interference in its internal affairs. The country also refused to allow him to attend the award ceremony in Oslo. Liu was represented by an empty chair during the awards day.

Tiananmen role

The Nobel laureate is also known for his efforts in attempting to negotiate a safe exit of thousands of student demonstrators from Tiananmen Square on the night of June 3, 1989. During the June Fourth Incident, Chinese troops entered Tiananmen Square and opened fire on protesting civilians, which killed hundreds to thousands of people.

Liu was arrested immediately after the crackdown on Tiananmen, however he was released without any charge in early 1991. He was again arrested and served three years of prison sentence in a labour camp from 1996 to 1999 for asking for release of all those jailed in the Tiananmen protests. He also protested the Chinese government's verdict that the civilian protests amounted to a counter-revolutionary rebellion.

Liu Xiaobo
Liu Xiaobo with wife Liu XiaReuters

Wife under house arrest

Liu's wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest since 2010. According to a rights group, she was diagnosed with depression years after her detention and suffered a heart attack in 2014.

After Liu's release from prison, many reporters attempted to contact her on Monday, however, she could not be reached as an automated message said her phone was no longer in service.

Liu being treated for cancer

Liu is currently being treated for cancer at a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang.

"He has no special plans. He is just receiving medical treatment for his illness," Liu's lawyer said, according to the AP reports.

When asked about Liu's release, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing: "I am not aware of the situation you're talking about."