Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo is now out of prison, but in the hospital being treated for late-stage liver cancer.
On Monday, the Liaoning Prison Administrative Bureau announced that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who has lived behind bars since 2009, had been granted medical parole with Chinese officials apparently reluctant to have one of the country’s foremost human rights activists die while still locked up in prison.
A brief statement published on the bureau’s website said that Liu had “recently” been diagnosed with liver cancer and was receiving treatment at the First Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang where a team of eight esteemed Chinese cancer specialists was attending to him.
Through Mo Shaoping, one of Liu’s lawyers, the South China Morning Post has learned that the famous dissident’s brother, Liu Xiaoxuan, has said that his 61-year-old brother was diagnosed with “terminal liver cancer” back on May 23rd. The paper also cites another one of Liu’s lawyers, Shang Baojun, stating that family members had said that Liu recently looked “seriously” ill.
No comment is likely to come from Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, who remains under house arrest in Beijing, or from the Chinese government itself. When asked yesterday about reports of Liu’s failing health, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters during a regular news conference in Beijing that: “I do not understand the situation you mentioned.”
Liu was jailed for 11 years back in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” after helping to author the Charter 08 manifesto, which called for 19 changes to be made to China’s government, including the elimination of one-party rule. Previously, Liu had spent decades as one of the most vocal critics of the Chinese government, being arrested multiple times, including in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.
In that case, he was convicted of “counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement,” but exempted from criminal punishment for having convinced students to leave Tiananmen Square as PLA soldiers and tanks closed in, saving hundreds of lives.
In 2010, Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his commitment to non-violent protest and human rights, much to Beijing’s displeasure. China quickly froze relations with Norway and heavily censored news about the award. During the ceremony, the Nobel diploma and prize were both symbolically placed on an empty chair.
News of Liu’s failing health has come as shock to many of his friends, colleagues and supporters, resulting in a flurry of statements calling for his immediate freedom.
“The Chinese authorities should immediately ensure that Liu Xiaobo receives adequate medical care, effective access to his family and that he and all others imprisoned solely for exercising their human rights are immediately and unconditionally released,” Amnesty International’s China Researcher Patrick Poon said.
“It adds injury to insult that Liu Xiaobo, who should never have been put in prison in the first place, has been diagnosed with a grave illness,” he added.
— Sophie Richardson (@SophieHRW) June 26, 2017
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) June 26, 2017
Meanwhile, Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, wrote in a statement to the SCMP:
“We are happy Mr Liu has been released, but sad that the circumstances are his failing health. We expect he will be granted full freedom, including the right to travel abroad,” Reiss-Andersen wrote. “Liu should never have been imprisoned for exercising his right of freedom of speech.”
China director of Human Rights Watch, Sophie Richarson, has suggested the Nobel Prize Committee ought to fly over to Shenyang immediately to force Liu’s release.
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