China 'Unlikely' to Heed Calls To Release Liu Xiaobo Overseas on Medical Parole

2017-07-06
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Cancer-stricken Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo with his wife, Liu Xia, in recent undated photo.
Cancer-stricken Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo with his wife, Liu Xia, in recent undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

Sending cancer-stricken Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo overseas for medical treatment as his condition worsens is "not realistic," a former Chinese propaganda official told RFA on Thursday.

The former Liaoning provincial propaganda bureau official said the ruling Chinese Communist Party likely won't cave in to growing international calls for Liu's release on overseas medical parole to seek treatment for late-stage liver cancer, as the family has requested.

"It's not realistic for him to go overseas," the former official said. "I don't think they'll allow him to go."

Speaking after the Shenyang No. 1 Medical University hospital in the northeastern province of Liaoning invited cancer specialists from across China, the United States and Europe to treat him, the former official said the authorities' claim to be assembling a team of specialists at Liu's bedside was a public relations exercise.

"It's to make it look good for the foreigners, for certain specific people," he said. "It won't be easy to get them to compromise on this, and if they were going to make any concessions [to Liu's wishes], they would have done so a long time ago."

"They'd be making more trouble for themselves if they were to give in now."

Beijing's decision to "release" Liu on medical parole when his cancer was already in a terminal stage has drawn widespread criticism from rights groups.

"The Chinese authorities are demonstrating new-depths of cruelty by preventing Liu Xiaobo from leaving the country to receive urgent medical treatment for his late-stage liver cancer," Amnesty International said in a statement on its website.

'Cruel farce'

The invitation of overseas medical experts appears in part an attempt to limit international criticism, as the authorities continue to refuse to grant Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia’s wish to travel abroad to receive treatment, the group said.

"Time is running out for Liu Xiaobo," the group's secretary general Salil Shetty said. "It is not too late for the authorities to end this cruel farce. They must let Liu Xiaobo and his wife, Liu Xia, travel abroad to get the medical treatment he so desperately needs."

But Beijing has brushed aside criticism, warning other countries not to interfere in its internal affairs.

Liu, who may not have long to live, is suffering from a build-up of fluid in his abdomen caused by his worsening liver function, the hospital treating him said.

While his wife Liu Xia has been photographed with him in hospital, friends of the couple say they are still under tight surveillance by state security police, and that visitors are being prevented from seeing Liu.

His family has been placed on "24-hour alert," indicating that his life is in danger. State media reported that a team of Chinese experts led by liver expert Mao Yilei has been invited to consult on his case.

But fellow rights activist Ye Du said this may not be an indicator of the seriousness of his condition.

"In China, sometimes they place you on 24-hour alert because the person's condition is genuinely critical, but sometimes the hospital just wants to cover itself, so will warn the family even when their condition isn't very serious," Ye said.

Medication suspended

Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia, who was also recently hospitalized and his family warned to prepare for the worst, said Liu is likely being prevented from going to Beijing for treatment, too.

"That professor, Mao Yilei, who is a recognized authority on liver diseases, at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital in Beijing," Hu said. "If Xiaobo could be admitted there for treatment, he'd be able to fine-tune his treatment, monitor all changes, and react in time."

"But they have the 19th Party Congress coming up in Beijing, so they want to keep Xiaobo confined," he said.

He said the authorities would also want to avoid sending Liu overseas while he is still articulate.

"If Liu Xiaobo does go overseas, then they want him to be in a coma, unconscious, unable to speak," Hu said. "That way, Liu can't leave them with any kind of emotional legacy."

Retired health ministry official Chen Bingzhong said Liu's medication has been suspended owing to his liver's inability to metabolize medication.

"When you have abdominal edema, then things are already very serious," Chen said. "And the side-effects of those medications are very strong, and he won't be able to tolerate them."

"But the stopping of medication is temporary. Once he has recovered to a certain point, they will have to start it again," he said.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Goh Fung for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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