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China under pressure to free ailing Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo

LiveMint logoLiveMint 13-07-2017 AFP

Shenyang (China): 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 US and Germany voiced concerns over the 61-year-old writer after the hospital treating him said on Wednesday he had organ failure and was experiencing difficulty in 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 in early June 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.

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 fulfil 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.

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