Overseas treatment for Chinese Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo must happen soon, say foreign doctors

Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo receiving treatment at the First Hospital of China Medical University.
Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo receiving treatment at the First Hospital of China Medical University. PHOTO: FIRST HOSPITAL OF CHINA MEDICAL UNIVERSITY
Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo receiving treatment at the First Hospital of China Medical University.
Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo receiving treatment at the First Hospital of China Medical University. PHOTO: FIRST HOSPITAL OF CHINA MEDICAL UNIVERSITY
Chinese Nobel peace laureate, dissident and civil rights activist Liu Xiaobo in Beijing, China in 2010.
Chinese Nobel peace laureate, dissident and civil rights activist Liu Xiaobo in Beijing, China in 2010. PHOTO: EPA

BEIJING (REUTERS, AFP) - Two foreign doctors who visited ailing Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo in hospital said on Sunday (July 9) they believe he can be moved overseas for treatment but it would have to happen soon.

"Liu Xiaobo and his family have requested that the remainder of his care be provided in Germany or the United States," Dr Joseph Herman of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre, and Dr Markus Büchler of the University of Heidelberg in Germany said in a joint statement.

"While a degree of risk always exists in the movement of any patient, both physicians believe Mr Liu can be safely transported with appropriate medical evacuation care and support. However, the medical evacuation would have to take place as quickly as possible."

Mr Liu is being treated in a Shenyang hospital for late stage liver cancer.

Chinese doctors treating Mr Liu had earlier warned the US and German medical experts visiting him that he is too sick to travel abroad for care.

The foreign doctors visited Mr Liu, China's most prominent democracy advocate, at the hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang following international pressure for China to let him go abroad or allow him to choose his own treatment.

Beijing has come under fire from human rights groups over its treatment of the activist and for waiting until he became terminally sick to release him from prison more than a month ago.

But the hospital said the experts concurred that Mr Liu has been afforded top medical care from renowned doctors.

The First Hospital of China Medical University said Mr Liu, 61, was visited by American oncology expert Joseph Herman from the MD Anderson Cancer Centre and German doctor Marcus Buchler from Heidelberg University.

The doctors, who were invited by the hospital at Mr Liu's family's request, found that Mr Liu had excess abdominal fluid and was in serious condition, the hospital said on its website.

They suggested that Mr Liu undergo an MRI to evaluate his liver condition and decide if he should undergo radiotherapy or another type of intervention.

 
 

Asked by the foreign experts about the possibility of sending Mr Liu for treatment abroad, Chinese doctors replied that "the process of transferring the patient is unsafe".

"We have no better method" of treating Mr Liu, it quoted the international experts as saying in response to a question about whether the laureate would receive more effective treatment overseas.

"The American and German specialists have fully endorsed the treatment programme and measures by the group of national experts," it said.

If his liver function improves, doctors could consider immunotherapy, but for now, Mr Liu will continue supportive therapy to alleviate the pain and "elevate his quality of life", the hospital added.

Photographs posted on the hospital's website showed the two experts examining Mr Liu, who is in a hospital bed and appears emaciated and weak.

In a separate statement, the hospital said that he is having "difficulty eating", but continues to receive "nutritional support, pain reduction and general supportive treatment".

A spokesman from the United States Embassy declined a request for comment.

Mr Patrick Poon, a China researcher from Amnesty International, said Beijing had never wanted to grant Mr Liu's wish to travel overseas for treatment.

"It's entirely the Chinese government's responsibility if the Nobel laureate eventually passes away without fulfilling his wish to leave China," he said.

The doctors' visit comes as Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Hamburg, Germany, for a G20 summit which ended on Saturday (July 8).

The United Nations human rights office demanded last Friday (July 7) that the UN be given access to Mr Liu, but as world leaders met with their Chinese counterpart in Germany, they remained largely silent on laureate's fate.

Mr 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 later sentenced to 11 years in prison in December 2009 for "subversion" after calling for democratic reform.

At the Nobel ceremony in Oslo in 2010, he was represented by an empty chair.

He is also known for his efforts to help negotiate the safe exit from Beijing's Tiananmen Square of thousands of student demonstrators on the night of June 3-4, 1989 when the military violently suppressed the protests.

A group of his friends fear he is near death and they issued an open letter earlier last week calling on the Chinese government to give them access to their ailing friend on "humanitarian" grounds.