New US ambassador keen to see Chinese dissident go abroad

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BEIJING: The new US ambassador to Beijing, known for his friendship with China’s president, said Wednesday he wanted terminally-ill dissident Liu Xiaobo to get treatment abroad, as Taiwan offered to care for the Nobel laureate.

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Ambassador Terry Branstad arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, one day after Liu’s lawyer revealed that prison authorities granted the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate medical parole after diagnosing him with late-stage liver cancer in May.

Human rights groups have called on Chinese authorities to give Liu, 61, the chance to seek treatment abroad while the US embassy urged Beijing on Tuesday to let him move freely and choose his own doctors.

“Obviously our heart goes out to him and his wife and we’re interested in doing what can be done to see if it’s possible,” Branstad told a news conference at his diplomatic residence.

“We as Americans would like to see him have the opportunity to have treatment elsewhere if that is of help,” Branstad said.

Asked about the ambassador’s remarks, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular news briefing: “Since Liu Xiaobo is a Chinese citizen, why should we discuss the matter of a Chinese citizen in prison with other countries?”

Lu said the “duty of the US ambassador to China is to enable and enhance the mutual trust and friendship between the two countries”.

Taiwan, however, said it was ready to oblige.

The offer could stoke tensions between China and the self-ruled island, which Beijing sees as a rebel province awaiting reunification.

Chiu Chui-cheng of the Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan’s top policy-making body on China, urged Beijing to release Liu and let him choose where he wants to be treated.

“We welcome Liu if he chooses Taiwan and we will provide him with the best medical care possible. Taiwan has very good expertise treating liver diseases,” Chiu told Agence France-Presse.

Chinese dissident Wang Dan, a leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests living in exile in Taiwan, said he has contacted Germany’s foreign ministry in the hope the country would take Liu for treatment.

Liu’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping, told Agence France-Presse that people on medical parole usually cannot leave the country but that it would be possible for him to seek treatment abroad if he was treated as a “special case”, according to Chinese law.

AFP

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