BEIJING As tributes rolled in Friday to mourn China's most famous political prisoner, a newspaper published by the ruling Communist Party dismissed late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo as a pawn of the West whose legacy will soon fade. His death, at a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang, was confirmed by a statement from the Chinese government, and it made Liu the latest in a string of Chinese dissidents whose incarceration ended in serious illness or fatality.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang criticized foreign officials for "making improper comments on Liu Xiaobo's death of illness".
China punished Norway by suspending political and economic ties - including salmon imports from Norway - until previous year, when Oslo promised to respect "China's core interests and major concerns".
China, however, said the case remained an internal matter.More news: Sheldon Silver's corruption conviction is overturned by federal appeals court
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday the administration hopes that Liu's widow will be freed from house arrest and "allowed to leave the country".
Xiaobo, diagnosed with liver-cancer, breathed his last on Thursday.
China's state media have described Liu as a stooge of the West, saying his Nobel Peace Prize was a sign of the West's prejudice, arrogance and intent to impose its own ideology on China. "It's a persecution, it's a violation of human rights", she said.
US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron were among Western leaders offering praise for Mr Liu.
When China allowed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo to die in police custody, it made a bet that world governments were more invested in improving trade ties than defending political dissidents.
The newspaper had tweeted a since-deleted message in Chinese on Sina Weibo - Twitter's equivalent in China - mocking the worldwide reactions to Liu's death: "The person's gone but a blockbuster tear-jerker is just on - we'll sit back and enjoy the show".
Turkish writer Elif Shafak hailed Lui "a courageous and generous soul who dared to stand for freedom", and United Kingdom poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy praised him for his work, power, courage and love with thanks for "everything you have done in your fight for a better world". Another empty chair was for Liu Xia.More news: Former Pres. Jimmy Carter OK after collapsing from dehydration
He was sentenced to 11 years in 2009 after being convicted of "inciting subversion of state power", and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia in 2010 for championing human rights in China.
China has rejected worldwide criticism for not allowing Mr Liu, who had been serving an 11-year prison term for "subversion", to be treated overseas.
In the same document - which also served as his Nobel Peace Prize lecture a year later, read in his absence by Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann - he brimmed with confidence that the rule of law and human rights would someday prevail in China.
Liu's actions were widely credited with saving thousands of lives.
"Liu lived in an era when China witnessed the most rapid growth in recent history, but he attempted to confront Chinese mainstream society under Western support", it said. "Even if he could live longer, he would never have achieved his political goals".
His colleague and close friend, retired Professor Ai Xiaoming, said even in death the Chinese authorities feared his voice and would not allow him to go overseas.More news: Nigeria Will Support Cap on Its Oil Production, Minister Says