Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, who was China's most prominent human rights and democracy advocate, has died aged 61.
The activist was being treated for terminal liver cancer at a hospital in Shenyang.
He had been transferred from prison last month, where he was serving an 11-year term for "subversion."
Liu had been slipping in and out of a coma over the past two days.
The Shenyang legal bureau said Liu suffered multiple organ failure and efforts to save him had failed.
University professor Liu was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for "inciting subversion of state power" after he helped write a petition known as "Charter 08" calling for sweeping political reforms.
He was repeatedly jailed throughout his life, and had also been subject to heavy restrictions when he was free, while his wife, Liu Xia, was placed under house arrest.
A funeral car was spotted outside the First Hospital of China Medical University where Liu died, escorted by police cars. Workers were seen carrying metallic fences, believed to have been removed from Liu's ward.
Security was heightened yesterday afternoon and reporters were being tailed. The hotel opposite to the hospital rejected bookings by reporters, saying all rooms were taken.
But going into the evening, reporters were no longer watched as closely. And they were able to go freely to the hospital which had been closely guarded while Liu was being treated.
However, family members of Liu including his wife were nowhere in sight.
Liu and family members were kept carefully away from the press when he was transferred to the hospital after being diagnosed with late stage liver cancer in June.
World leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, had urged Beijing to allow the dissident to travel overseas to receive medical care that supporters claimed may have prolonged his life.
However, China refused, prompting criticism that its leaders were willfully and intentionally shortening Liu's life to deny him one last opportunity to denounce their rule.
News of Liu's death sparked an immediate outpouring of grief and condemnation at his treatment. Liu's peaceful activism and biting criticism of one- party rule meant he had spent almost a quarter of his life behind bars.
Patrick Poon, an Amnesty International campaigner who also knew Liu, hit out at Beijing's "incomprehensible" persecution of someone he remembered as a kind and principled man.
Tributes also flooded the internet, with netizens drawing Liu with wings holding the hand of his wife, and Liu freed from chains.
Liu, in a statement intended to be read at his trial in December 2009, wrote: "I have no enemies and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested, and interrogated me, none of the prosecutors who indicted me, and none of the judges who judged me are my enemies.
"Hatred can rot away at a person's intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society's tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation's progress toward freedom and democracy.
"That is why I hope to be able to transcend my personal experiences as I look upon our nation's development and social change, to counter the regime's hostility with utmost goodwill, and to dispel hatred with love."
Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said the spirit of Liu will live forever, encouraging people to fight for the liberation of the country.
Liu had hoped his wife would be sent overseas, Ho said. The alliance will campaign to have that goal achieved. The alliance and League of Social Democrats gathered outside the liaison office last night, holding banners of "Remember Liu Xiaobo."