Taiwanese author and political campaigner Li Ao dies, aged 82

Image source, Reuters

Taiwanese author and political campaigner Li Ao has died.

He passed away peacefully on Sunday morning at the Veterans General Hospital in the Taiwan capital Taipei following a battle with brain cancer.

The 82 year-old, who was born in Harbin and brought up in Beijing, was diagnosed with a tumour back in 2015 and his condition is thought to have worsened since January.

He leaves behind a wife and three children.

Who was Li Ao?

In an interesting life, Li Ao spent time in prison for his political views, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature and had many of his books banned from Taiwan, where he moved at the age of 14.

He went on to study history and publish numerous magazines and books. His novel, the Fayuan Temple Of Beijing, was shortlisted by Nobel in 2000.

Throughout his life Li was critical of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government, something for which he went to prison.

He was against the independence of Taiwan and believed in the unification of the island state with China, but felt Taiwan should be equal to and not a subordinate of Beijing.

'Significant figure'

Wang Chien-chuang, former editor of the China Times, paid his own tribute.

"Li Ao was a rather significant figure in 1960s and 1970s Taiwan, when the island was under martial law," he said.

"The magazine he edited at the time, Wenxing, enlightened the entire generation.

"But after the martial law was lifted in the 1980s, similar voices erupted across Taiwan, hence Li Ao became a much less significant figure.

"His political views in later years - supporting the unification of China - turned him into a minority figure in Taiwan."

What's been the reaction on social media?

Most comments by mainland Chinese internet users on social media network Weibo expressed sorrow for Li Ao's death and admiration for his literary talent, patriotism and fighting spirit.

Xiong Yuying said: "My high school Chinese teacher admired him as a famous author. Then at university, I learned about his unyielding character through reading his works. His courage to speak his mind and to act on it was exemplary."

Chunxiaomanyi wrote: "I respect and admire Li Ao from the very bottom of my heart. I learned so much from him - his pursuit of truth, justice and conscience, his support for disadvantaged people and his genuine love for China."

And Putiaochaofan added: "He was opposed to Taiwan independence and was resolute in his fight against separatists. For this, he deserves our respect."

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But many commentators focused not on Li Ao's trademark outspokenness, but on the social and political environment that tolerated it.

Li Ao was jailed in Taiwan under the rule of the KMT. But to some commentators, his treatment would have been much harsher had he stayed on the mainland.

Netizen Kunzai2017 said: "I cherish his memory but I have to say he cursed the KMT all his life but was still allowed to live a full life."

'Turned into a tool'

Other internet users have been more critical of Li Ao's legacy, accusing him of political opportunism over his closeness to the Chinese Communist Party in his later years.

Ruifutang accused Li Ao of hypocrisy, saying that he "never cursed anyone on the mainland but only cursed people in Taiwan, because it was safe".

While one poster, China-tk, said Li Ao had "turned into a tool".

Written by the BBC's UGC and Social News team, and Vincent Ni and Qiang Zhang, BBC World Service.

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