BEIJING •The family of China's cancer-stricken Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo declined to let doctors put him on artificial ventilation yesterday, his hospital said, raising the grim prospect that he could die in custody.
The First Hospital of China Medical University in 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, referring to the placement of a tube into the windpipe.
The hospital, which earlier reported that Mr Liu had organ failure, said his liver function had deteriorated despite three days of anti-infection and blood treatment.
Mr Liu could become the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in custody since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who died in a hospital while being held by the Nazis in 1938.
The Chinese government has rebuffed international appeals to let Mr Liu seek treatment abroad, saying he is getting the best possible care from top domestic doctors.
Mr Liu was admitted to the hospital early last month after he was transferred from prison due to late-stage liver cancer.
The United States repeated calls on Tuesday for Mr Liu to be released and said it was ready to welcome him if he chose to be treated there.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang repeated his standard answer earlier yesterday that other countries should respect the country's judicial sovereignty and "not interfere in China's internal affairs under the pretext of an individual case".
US and German cancer experts visited Mr Liu last weekend and determined that he was strong enough to be medically evacuated, but the hospital has issued pessimistic medical updates since then.
Before the latest update, human rights groups questioned the motives behind the daily medical reports, saying it showed the authorities may be trying to manipulate information.
"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 said.
"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," Mr Poon said.
Human Rights Watch's Asia researcher Maya Wang said there has been little information from Mr Liu's family about his health, limiting the independent updates.
"We simply don't know to what extent this is professional medical reports and to what extent this is politically manipulated information," Ms Wang said.
A video leaked earlier this week showed the Western doctors praising their Chinese counterparts as they stood by Mr Liu's bedside.
The video 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".
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 sentenced to 11 years in prison in December 2009 for "subversion".