WORLD

Chinese Nobel laureate too sick to travel abroad

CHINESE NOBEL LAUREATE TOO SICK TO TRAVEL ABROAD

Chinese doctors treating ailing Nobel Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo warned US and German medical experts he is too sick to travel abroad for care, the hospital looking after him said in a statement Saturday.

The foreign doctors visited 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 Liu has been afforded top medical care from renowned doctors.

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

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

They suggested that 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 Liu for treatment abroad, Chinese doctors replied "the process of transfering the patient is unsafe".

"We have no better method" of treating 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 Liu will continue supportive therapy to alleviate the pain and "elevate his quality of life," the hospital added.

Pictures posted on the hospital's web site showed the two experts examining 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 spokeswoman from the US Embassy declined a request for comment.

'NOT DISCLOSING ANY DETAILS'
Patrick Poon, a China researcher from Amnesty International, said Beijing had never wanted to grant Liu's wish to travel overseas for treatment.

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

The doctors' visit comes as Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Hamburg, Germany, for a G20 summit ending Saturday.

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

"Beijing's horrific intransigence in this case requires all possible international pressure to create some peace and freedom for Liu Xiaobo and (his wife) Liu Xia," said Human Rights Watch's China director, Sophie Richardson.

"Beijing won't give that away for free."

'THE WHOLE TRUTH'
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 later earlier this week calling on the Chinese government to give them access to their ailing friend on "humanitarian" grounds.

A friend of Liu's, who asked to remain anonymous due to the case's sensitivity, told AFP that both his younger and older brothers are set to visit him in hospital for the first time this weekend.

But "Liu's friends are still not able to meet him," Poon said, which "speaks a lot about the restrictions Liu and his family face".

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