The activist was being treated for terminal liver cancer in a hospital in north-eastern China.
He had been transferred from prison last month, where he was serving an 11-year term for “subversion”.
A university professor turned tireless rights campaigner, Mr Liu was branded a criminal by authorities, and was repeatedly jailed throughout his life.
He was also subject to severe restrictions when not in prison, while his wife, Liu Xia, was placed under house arrest.
In the weeks leading up to his death, Mr Liu’s case became mired in international controversy.