Beijing pressured to free Nobel laureate


SHENYANG: China faced sustained international pressure on Thursday to let cancer-stricken Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo seek treatment abroad, as official hospital updates suggest the democracy champion is close to death.

The United States and Germany voiced concerns over the 61-year-old writer after the hospital treating him said Wednesday he had organ failure and difficulty breathing.

The doctors said Liu needed to be on artificial ventilation to be kept alive, but his family declined, according to the First Hospital of China Medical University in the northeastern city of Shenyang.

Human rights groups have decried the lack of independent reports about Liu’s health, accusing the authorities of manipulating information as the heavily-guarded hospital’s website has been the only source of medical updates.

Officials have not said where Liu is being treated, but at least five police officers guarded the hospital’s oncology floor on Thursday, monitoring access to the unit. Several more were seen elsewhere inside and outside the building.

Liu, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for “subversion” in 2009, was admitted to the hospital early last month after he was transferred from prison due to late-stage liver cancer.

His wife, the poet Liu Xia, has been by his side, but her ability to communicate with the outside world is restricted. Authorities have kept her under house arrest since 2010.

“We remain concerned that both Mr. Liu and his family are unable to communicate with the outside world and that he is not free to seek the medical treatment of his choosing,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Wednesday.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Berlin “stands ready to host and medically” treat him.

The latest health updates “raise the question of whether Mr. Liu’s cancer should have been diagnosed and treated far earlier,” Seibert said.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen also called on Beijing to free Liu and reiterated her offer to have Liu treated on the self-governed island, which China considers a breakaway province.

Regime ‘without compassion’
The Chinese government has rebuffed international appeals to let Liu seek treatment abroad, saying he is getting the best possible care from top domestic doctors and that other countries should not “interfere with China’s internal affairs”.

A German and a US doctor visited Liu last weekend and said he was still strong enough to fulfill his wish to travel overseas, but the hospital has issued increasingly pessimistic reports every day since then.

Liu risks becoming the first Nobel Peace Prize laureate to die in custody since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who passed away in a hospital under the Nazis in 1938.

Liu was arrested in 2008 after co-writing Charter 08, a bold petition that called for the protection of basic human rights and reform of China’s one-party Communist system.

Ye Du, an activist close to the family, said he did not expect the authorities to let Liu leave as the Communist-led government “is without human compassion.”

“Even if he didn’t have three years or three months but only had three hours to live, as long as he would be able to speak freely about anything political, this kind of political party—which must control its citizens in order to maintain its legitimacy—can never allow it,” Ye said.



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