Family of China’s critically ill Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo rejects artificial ventilation: Hospital

An undated video grab showing Chinese Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo (centre) surrounded by doctors and his wife Liu Xia at an undisclosed location.
An undated video grab showing Chinese Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo (centre) surrounded by doctors and his wife Liu Xia at an undisclosed location.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AFP) - The family of China’s cancer-stricken Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo declined to let doctors put him on artificial ventilation on Wednesday (July 12), his hospital said, raising the grim prospect that he could die in custody.  

The First Hospital of China Medical University in the north-eastern city of Shenyang said the 61-year-old democracy activist had respiratory failure and needed artificial ventilation to be kept alive.  

“The hospital has explained the necessity of tracheal intubation to the patient’s family, the family refused the tracheal intubation,” the hospital said on its website.  

The hospital, which earlier reported that he had suffered organ failure, said Liu’s liver function had deteriorated despite three days of anti-infection and blood treatment.

Liu could become the first Nobel Peace Prize laureate to die in custody since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who passed away in a hospital while held by the Nazis in 1938.  

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.

Germany says ready to treat Liu

Germany said Wednesday it was ready to treat Liu, saying it was “very concerned” by reports his health was deteriorating.  

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said “Germany stands ready to host and medically treat” the Chinese activist, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for “subversion” after calling for democratic reforms. 

US and German cancer experts visited Liu last weekend and determined that he was strong enough to be medically evacuated, but the hospital has issued pessimistic medical updates since then.

"As the authorities are controlling all the information about Liu Xiaobo's health condition, it's difficult to verify if the information released on the hospital's website is true or not," Amnesty International's China researcher Patrick Poon told AFP.

"It's also legitimate to question if the authorities are releasing the information about his worsening health as an attempt to delay and justify not allowing Liu Xiaobo to leave the country," Poon said.

Human Rights Watch's Asia researcher Maya Wang said there has been little information coming from Liu's family about his health, limiting the amount of independent updates.

"We simply don't know to what extent this is professional medical reports and to what extent this is politically manipulated information," Wang said.

Amid the medical updates, a video was leaked earlier this week showing the Western doctors praising their Chinese counterparts as they stood by Liu's bedside.

The scene was denounced as propaganda by rights groups while the German embassy said on Monday it "seems that security organs are steering the process, not medical experts".

But in an editorial, the state-run Global Times newspaper said the video aimed to show the Chinese doctors' efforts to help him and said: "Western forces are politicising Liu's cancer treatment".

Liu was arrested in 2008 after co-writing Charter 08, a bold petition that called for the protection of basic human rights and reform of China's one-party communist system.

He was sentenced to 11 years in prison in December 2009 for "subversion". At the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo in 2010, he was represented by an empty chair.