China grants parole to jailed Nobel laureate hit by liver cancer

Democracy campaigner and writer Liu Xiaobo was jailed in 2009 after spearheading a petition for democratic reforms.
Democracy campaigner and writer Liu Xiaobo was jailed in 2009 after spearheading a petition for democratic reforms.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BEIJING • China's jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has been granted medical parole after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer last month, his lawyer said yesterday.

Mr Liu, who had about three years of his 11-year sentence left to serve, was diagnosed on May 23 and was released days later, said his lawyer, Mr Mo Shaoping. The 61-year-old democracy campaigner was being treated at a hospital in the north-eastern city of Shenyang.

"He has no special plans. He is just receiving medical treatment for his illness," Mr Mo said.

The writer was jailed in 2009 for "inciting subversion of state power" after spearheading a bold petition for democratic reforms.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a year later, becoming China's only winner of the prestigious prize. China strongly condemned the Nobel award, calling it unwanted foreign interference in its internal affairs, and refused to allow him to attend the ceremony in Oslo. The award was presented to an empty chair, which later became a symbol of China's repression.

Asked about Mr Liu's release, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing: "I am not aware of the situation you're talking about."

The international community has been calling for Mr Liu's release for years. He was arrested in 2008 after co-writing Charter 08, a bold petition that called for the protection of basic human rights and the reform of China's one-party communist system. Charter 08, which was posted online, specifically demands the abolition of subversion as an offence in China's criminal code - the very crime for which Mr Liu has been jailed.

His wife, Madam Liu Xia, has been under house arrest since 2010. She suffered a heart attack in 2014, when she was diagnosed with depression after years of detention, a rights group said at the time.

She could not be reached for comment yesterday as an automated message said her phone was no longer in service.

Mr Liu is also known for his efforts to help negotiate the safe exit from Tiananmen Square of thousands of student demonstrators on the night of June 3, 1989, when the military quelled six weeks of protests in the heart of Beijing.

Mr Liu was arrested immediately after the crackdown and released without charge in early 1991. He was arrested again and served three years in a labour camp from 1996 to 1999 for seeking the release of those jailed in the Tiananmen protests and for opposing the government's verdict that they amounted to a counter-revolutionary rebellion.

The holder of a doctorate in Chinese literature, Mr Liu was once a professor at Beijing Normal University, but was banned from teaching at state institutions over his involvement in the 1989 demonstrations.

Although he was banned from publishing in China, many of Mr Liu's writings advocating greater democracy and respect for human rights have appeared in Hong Kong and overseas Chinese publications. Some of these writings served as evidence in his most recent trial, according to rights groups.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2017, with the headline 'China grants parole to jailed Nobel laureate hit by liver cancer'. Print Edition | Subscribe