Football star Lionel Messi is said to have sent an autographed picture in a bid to cheer up Liu Xiaobo when the Chinese rights activist was ailing in a mainland hospital before his death earlier this month.
The Argentine soccer player sent the picture to Howard Lam Tsz-kin, a pro-democracy politician in Hong Kong, hoping that the latter would arrange for the picture to be delivered to Liu, according to a Facebook post Tuesday from Lam.
Lam wrote on the social media platform that he wrote to Messi’s club, FC Barcelona, in early July and sought an autographed picture of the world famous footballer so that it can be forwarded to Liu, who was lodged in a hospital in late June after years in a Chinese prison.
Chinese authorities had released Liu on parole after the renowned political dissident and democracy campaigner was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer.
After learning of Liu’s critical condition, Lam thought he could try to lift the spirits of the rights activist by providing him an autographed picture of Messi.
The idea came as it was well-known that Liu was a big football fan and a passionate follower of Messi.
Lam wanted to send Liu the picture when the latter was undergoing treatment in a Shenyang hospital, but unfortunately he received the parcel too late.
Although Lam had received a quick response from FC Barcelona that the request would be honored, the signed picture of Messi only arrived Hong Kong on Tuesday.
The reason for the delayed dispatch, according to the Spanish football club, is that Messi “was not in the club the past few weeks”.
Although disappointed that he couldn’t fulfill his aim of delivering the signed Messi picture to Liu, Lam said he is grateful to the professional football player and his Spanish club for honoring his request.
Lam said he will write an email to express his thanks and to inform them that he will now try his best to have the picture delivered to Liu’s wife, Liu Xia.
He said he hopes the souvenir can offer some comfort for Liu’s family.
Lam praised FC Barcelona and Messi for their gesture, describing it as an exemplary display of humanity.
The soccer star and his club paid a tribute to Liu despite being aware that their action could anger Beijing and lead to potential sanctions, he said.
The touching gesture sends a message to political dissidents that they are not alone, Lam added.
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