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Chinese Hospital Says Dissident Liu Xiaobo Too Ill to Travel


Police officers stand guards next to a portrait of jailed Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo during a demonstration outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, July 10, 2017.

The hospital treating Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo says he is too ill to travel overseas for treatment, saying the Nobel Prize Laureate is in critical condition.

The hospital said Liu's blood pressure is falling and he has an increasingly swollen stomach and partial intestinal obstruction and other complications. Liu was recently moved to the First Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang from jail after he was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer.

In 2009, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power,” after helping write a petition known as “Charter 08” that called for political reforms in China.

Since news of his terminal illness surfaced and he was released on medical parole under tight security, calls for his treatment abroad have been building.

On Sunday, two foreign doctors who met with Liu said he could be moved abroad safely for treatment and that he wanted to go to either Germany or the United States.

The doctors added any move needs to happen soon. But it appears likely China will not budge.

Monday, China's Foreign Ministry continued to ask other countries “respect its sovereignty” and said speaking out about Liu's treatment overseas is “interference in its internal affairs.”

Video clips of China’s jailed Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, left, as he lays on a bed at a hospital and, right, Liu saying wardens are taking good care of him, are displayed on a computer screen in Beijing, June 29, 2017.
Video clips of China’s jailed Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, left, as he lays on a bed at a hospital and, right, Liu saying wardens are taking good care of him, are displayed on a computer screen in Beijing, June 29, 2017.

Family's communication blocked

Rights groups say Liu's wife, Liu Xia and his relatives have been allowed to be with him, but are not allowed to communicate with the outside world.

The Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democracy reports Liu's elder brother Liu Xiaoguang and his wife recently visited the hospital to check on the ailing dissident's condition. But for days, the police have kept the couple under tight watch, and they have not been able to reach out to others. The couple was also pressured to sign a statement endorsing the opinion of Chinese doctors that “it is unsafe to move Liu” abroad, the group said.

China also appears to be trying to use the internet to forward its narrative. Recently there have been postings on YouTube that include video footage only authorities in China could have.

One clip includes video of interviews with Liu talking about his treatment, and meeting with his wife Liu Xia. There are also shots apparently of him exercising in prison taken from surveillance cameras.

Sunday, a user by the name of China Anti-Evil Cult posted a short 31 second video clip of a meeting between foreign doctors and Chinese medical experts. In the clip a Chinese doctor asks, “Is there any treatment that you can do that we cannot?”

After the question is asked, however, there is an obvious splice in the clip and then a German doctor responds by saying, "I don't think we can do better than you in Germany. But I can speak for Germany. I don't think we can do better medically than you do, you do very well."

But in a statement Sunday, the position doctors took was in sharp contrast with the message of the video. Joseph M. Herman of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Markus Buechler of the University of Heidelberg said, “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."

Germany protests

Another video was circulated online of the doctors around Liu Xiaobo's hospital bed, triggering a protest from the German embassy in Beijing.

The German embassy called it a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality. It said Dr. Buechler had protested having video and audio recordings made of his visit with Liu. "It seems that security organs are steering the process, not medical experts," the embassy said. "This behavior undermines the trust in the authorities dealing with Mr. Liu's case, which is vital to ensure maximum success of his medical treatment."

Authorities have strengthened security around the hospital, including a neighboring hotel.

Monday, VOA discovered a hand-written memo on the hotel's front desk and note to the hotel's staff that said, "Effective immediately, no one including reporters shall be given rooms facing the hospital or on a high floor. Only rooms on a low floor or in the opposite direction are available.”

A written note shows no rooms available for media if they request upper level hotel suites facing the hospital where Liu Xiaobo is receiving medical treatment. (Y. Bing/VOA)
A written note shows no rooms available for media if they request upper level hotel suites facing the hospital where Liu Xiaobo is receiving medical treatment. (Y. Bing/VOA)

During the past few days, a VOA Mandarin service reporter and his news assistant trying to reach family members in Shenyang have been harassed, questioned and followed by unidentified men.

On Saturday a group of men who claimed to be hospital security guards surrounded them as they were trying to shoot video of the hospital's exterior. The men said they were not allowed to shoot video, and they were enforcing the law, but did not provide any identification.

Two VOA crew members are confronted by men July 8, 2017, near the hospital in Shenyang, China, where Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo is receiving treatment for final-stage liver cancer. (Courtesy photo by Hong Kong media)
Two VOA crew members are confronted by men July 8, 2017, near the hospital in Shenyang, China, where Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo is receiving treatment for final-stage liver cancer. (Courtesy photo by Hong Kong media)

The men grabbed the VOA journalists' arms and tried to drag and push them away. The VOA correspondent was hit repeatedly on his arm, receiving a bruise on his wrist. The news assistant's arm was also bruised as they were pushed and dragged around. The men also tried to take their cell phones and camera. In the shuffle, the camera and a pair of headphones were damaged.

This report from Shenyang and Beijing originated on VOA Mandarin. VOA reporter Hai Yan in Washington and journalist Joyce Huang contributed additional material.

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