Liu Xiaobo, China's most famous dissidents and winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, has been released on medical parole by Chinese authorities and is undergoing treatment at a hospital in the north-eastern city of Shenyang, reports said on Sunday (June 26).
Hong Kong's Apple Daily, citing Mr Liu's lawyer Mo Shaoping, said the information came from Mr Liu's younger brother.
"I heard that he (Liu Xiaobo) probably has terminal liver cancer, and is now in hospital on medical parole. His brother confirmed this," Mr Mo was quoted as saying.
The Voice of America, quoting another of Mr Liu's lawyers Shang Baojun, said the 61-year-old dissident was diagnosed with the cancer on May 23.
Mr Liu's family members are allowed to visit him, Mr Shang told the US-based broadcaster. He said he was unable to disclose more.
Rights group Amnesty International on Monday confirmed the news of Mr Liu’s illness in a tweet.
Asked about Mr Liu’s parole, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing: “I am not aware of the situation you’re talking about.”
Mr Liu, a literary critic and scholar who had been jailed for helping students during the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, was jailed for 11 years in 2009 on subversion charges for organising a petition called Charter 08 urging an end to the Communist Party's one-party rule.
The decision to award him the Nobel peace prize by a committee in Oslo led to years-long diplomatic freeze between Norway and China which has only recently shown signs of thawing.
The international community has been calling for Mr Liu's release for years.
His wife Liu Xia has also been placed under house arrest since 2010. She could not be reached for comment on Monday and an automated message said her phone was no longer in service, reported Agence France-Presse.
Although Mr Liu was banned from publishing in China, many of his writings advocating greater democracy and respect for human rights appeared in Hong Kong and overseas Chinese publications.
PEN Hong Kong, an organisation of journalists and writers advocating freedom of expression worldwide, also called for his unconditional release on Monday.
“At a time when China wants to have a greater international role, it is only fitting that it should show humanity and compassion towards a man who has never committed any violent crime, but has dedicated his life to literature and free expression,” it said on its website.
WITH ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE