China lashed out today at international criticism after it denied Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo's dying wish to leave the country and faced pressure to set the democracy champion's widow free.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing lodged official protests with the United States, France, Germany and the United Nations human rights office over their “irresponsible remarks” regarding Liu Xiaobo, and he took aim at his Nobel status.

“Conferring the prize to such a person goes against the purposes of this award. It's a blasphemy of the peace prize,” he told reporters.

The US and the European Union paid tribute to Liu Xiaobo as it urged President Xi Jinping's government to let his widow, the poet Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since 2010, leave the country.

Germany voiced regret that Beijing ignored its offer to host Liu while French President Emmanuel Macron remembered him as a “freedom fighter”. Britain hit out at China for preventing Liu from travelling overseas for treatment.

The UN human rights commissioner, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said Liu “was jailed for standing up for his beliefs”.

While China lodged protests, some of the global reaction to his death was relatively muted, highlighting China's emergence as an economic and diplomatic superpower on the world stage.

US President Donald Trump and Macron offered praise for Xi at a joint press conference in Paris and only voiced sadness for Liu later in statements.

In a sign of China's growing confidence, the state-controlled Global Times newspaper said in an English-language editorial that “the West has bestowed upon Liu a halo, which will not linger”.