China's Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo should get treatment he needs: German foreign ministry

This file handout photo released by the Liu family and taken on October 22, 2002 shows Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia in Beijing.
This file handout photo released by the Liu family and taken on October 22, 2002 shows Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia in Beijing.PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN/BEIJING (Reuters, AFP) – Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist Liu Xiaobo should receive the medical treatment that he needs and wants, a German foreign ministry source said on Thursday (June 29), when asked whether Liu would receive treatment for his late-stage cancer in Germany.

The comments came as Liu's friend said he wants Chinese authorities to let him get treatment abroad for the cancer which the authorities say has spread throughout his body.

The German ministry source, who asked not to be named, declined to comment specifically on whether Liu, 61, who was jailed in 2009 after he helped write a petition calling for sweeping political reforms, would be treated in Germany for his liver cancer.

“Liu Xiaobo should receive the treatment that he needs and that he and his family desire,” the source said.  

A German source familiar with the case said officials from China, Germany and the European Union were still discussing the matter and that no final decision had been made.

France’s foreign ministry declined to comment on whether it was willing to host Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist Liu Xiaobo, but urged China to release him given concerns over his health.  

 

France Info, without citing sources, had reported that Paris had on Wednesday proposed to China that it welcome the 61-year-old, who was jailed in 2009 after he helped write a petition calling for sweeping political reforms in the country. 

“France is concerned by the information regarding Liu Xiaobo’s health,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “It calls on China to free him for humanitarian reasons.” 

It added that all necessary measures should be put in place to allow Liu Xiaobo to receive medical treatment where he wishes, and that his wife and those close to him should be able to have access to him.  

Prominent Chinese dissident writer Liao Yiwu told AFP that Liu's wife sent a formal request to China's state security ministry requesting permission for the couple and her brother to leave the country.

Taiwan on Wednesday also urged Beijing to release Liu and offered him medical treatment in a move that could stoke tensions between China and the self-ruled island.  

Asked to respond to Taiwan’s offer, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang on Thursday said: “What you’re talking about is China’s internal affairs. It has no concern with China’s diplomacy.”

“I’m not aware of what you said and it’s not a diplomatic question,” Lu said. 

'Liu wants to die in the West'

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for "subversion" after calling for democratic reforms, was released on medical parole after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer last month, his lawyer said this week.

His wife, Liu Xia, sent the request before the diagnosis, but family friends say the couple wants the 61-year-old democracy campaigner to be treated abroad.

"I learned two weeks ago that Liu Xiaobo said that if he dies, he wants to die in the West," Liao, a family friend who lives in Germany, said in a phone interview.

Another friend, who requested anonymity out of fear of persecution, told AFP he had received similar information from family sources.

Amnesty International China researcher Patrick Poon, citing people close to the family, said: "Liu Xia indeed wants Liu Xiaobo to get medical care abroad." But Amnesty was unable to verify if Liu Xiaobo himself has expressed those wishes.

The state security ministry could not be reached for comment as its phone number is not publicly available.

Liao said he also received a handwritten letter from Liu's wife in April in which she says her husband wants to leave China.

"I am sick of my life, this grotesque life ... I long to escape," Liu Xia, who has suffered from heart problems and depression, writes in the missive, which Liao posted online.

"I can hardly believe that Xiaobo agreed to leave China together with me and (my brother). I am grateful to you and to our friends for everything you've been doing and cannot wait to embrace you," it added.

Liao said he sent the letter to the US and German governments.

The US and German embassies in Beijing declined to comment.

The new US ambassador to Beijing, Terry Branstad, said on Wednesday that he would like to see Liu have the option of treatment abroad, echoing a growing chorus of Chinese and foreign human rights activists.

Prison video surfaces

Authorities in the north-eastern city of Shenyang, where Liu is being treated, said late Wednesday that Liu was taken to a hospital after he was found to be unwell on May 31.

On June 7, cancer experts at China Medical University No 1 Hospital determined that Liu had "liver cancer with systemic metastasis", meaning it has spread to the rest of his body, the Shenyang legal bureau said in a statement.

Liu's wife and other family members were with him at the hospital and they expressed "satisfaction" with the treatment, the statement said.

Meanwhile, a video showing Liu undergoing medical exams in prison was posted on YouTube by US-based Chinese-language news site Boxun late Wednesday.

In the video, Liu says he is "grateful" for the "really good care" he has received from prison doctors.

Liu is seen playing badminton in a prison yard, getting an ultrasound and undergoing a CT scan.

Speaking with his wife in a prison visiting room divided by glass, Liu tells her that he "had a physical exam, they took blood ... it's very good."

Boxun did not specify where the footage came from or where and when it was filmed. The site's editors and prison authorities could not be reached for comment.