By CHRIS BUCKLEY and AUSTIN RAMZYJUNE 26, 2017
BEIJING — Liu Xiaobo, the jailed Chinese dissident who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his writings promoting democracy, has been given medical parole to be treated for late-stage cancer, his lawyers and the prison authorities said on Monday.
Mr. Liu, who had been imprisoned in northeast China, was found in late May to have advanced liver cancer and was hospitalized soon after, said one of the lawyers, Shang Baojun, citing Mr. Liu’s relatives. Mr. Shang said the outlook for Mr. Liu appeared grim.
“It seems to be very serious, very serious,” he said. “If it was an early stage of cancer, then that would be easier to treat. But at this late stage, the treatment seems much more difficult.”
In a video released by Radio Free Asia, Mr. Liu’s distraught wife, Liu Xia, told a friend that his doctors “can’t do surgery, can’t do radiation therapy, can’t do chemotherapy,” apparently referring to his advanced cancer.
Mr. Liu, 61, was hospitalized in Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning Province, Mr. Shang said, as did his other lawyer, Mo Shaoping. The Liaoning Prison Administrative Bureau confirmed on its website that Mr. Liu had cancer and recently received medical parole.
“Liu Xiaobo is receiving treatment according to a medical plan,” the prison bureau said. It said a team of eight cancer specialists had advised on his treatment. The English-language website of Global Times, a Chinese state-run newspaper, also reported the administration’s statement.
News of Mr. Liu’s apparently terminal illness drew immediate and passionate calls from supporters and human rights groups for him to be freed.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it was “delighted” to learn that Mr. Liu was out of prison but “strongly regrets” that it took serious illness for that to happen. It called on the Chinese authorities to release him without conditions, saying he had a standing offer to travel to Oslo to receive his prize.
“The Chinese government’s culpability for wrongfully imprisoning Liu Xiaobo is deepened by the fact that they released him only when he became gravely ill,” Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, said in an emailed statement. “The government should immediately allow Liu Xiaobo and his wife, Liu Xia, to seek proper treatment wherever they wish.”
Patrick Poon, a China researcher at Amnesty International, said the government should ensure that Mr. Liu received adequate medical care and access to relatives. “The authorities must also stop their shameful and illegal house arrest of Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia,” Mr. Poon said, “and ensure that she is able to receive visitors, travel freely and reunite with Liu Xiaobo.”
The American State Department also urged the Chinese authorities to give Mr. Liu “freedom of movement and access to medical care of his choosing.”
Friends of Ms. Liu, a poet and artist who is being held at her Beijing apartment, say that the extreme isolation has worn on her and that she has depression and heart disease.
Mr. Mo, the lawyer, said that “in principle,” Mr. Liu could receive visits from family members, but he added that he was uncertain whether his wife was with him.
The news of Mr. Liu’s condition could create an additional worry for President Xi Jinping, who is focused on a congress in the autumn that is all but sure to appoint him for a second term as Communist Party leader and to promote a new generation of senior officials.
In his first five years in power, Mr. Xi has pursued an intense crackdown on dissent. But even in hospital confinement, Mr. Liu could serve as a new rallying point for China’s beleaguered rights activists, angered that his cancer was not detected until it was seemingly too late to save him.
“I wish this was fake news. Liu Xiaobo is the pride of the Chinese people,” said Bao Tong, a former senior aide to Zhao Ziyang, the Communist Party leader who was ousted during the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations centered on Tiananmen Square.
Mr. Bao said he wanted to know whether Mr. Liu’s cancer had been diagnosed in an earlier stage, when it might have been more treatable.
Repeated calls to the No. 1 Hospital of the China Medical University in Shenyang, where the lawyers said Mr. Liu was receiving treatment, went unanswered or encountered a busy signal.
Mr. Liu, a lecturer at Beijing Normal University, was a prominent figure during the student-led protests that swept Beijing and other Chinese cities in 1989. He was famous for fiery speeches and helped start a hunger strike days before the protest in Tiananmen Square was crushed by the military. He negotiated a peaceful retreat from the square and is credited with saving many lives.
After the crackdown, Mr. Liu was jailed for 21 months, the first of several prison terms he served for his pro-democracy organizing.
In 2008, he helped write a petition calling for widespread political liberalization in China. That document, Charter 08, was initially signed by hundreds of scholars and activists. The police arrested Mr. Liu, and a year later, he was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced to 11 years in prison.
In 2010, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for what the committee called “his long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”
Mr. Liu was represented at the Nobel ceremony in Oslo by an empty chair. He was the first Nobel Peace Prize recipient to not attend the ceremony or be represented by family since the 1935 prize, when Hitler barred the German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who was being held in a concentration camp, and his supporters from accepting the award. Mr. von Ossietzky, whose health had degraded after years of abuse, died in 1938 of tuberculosis.
In Mr. Liu’s absence, his statement from his 2009 trial, titled “I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement,” was read as his Nobel lecture.
“Hatred can rot away at a person’s intelligence and conscience,” he wrote. “Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation’s progress toward freedom and democracy. That is why I hope to be able to transcend my personal experiences as I look upon our nation’s development and social change, to counter the regime’s hostility with utmost good will, and to dispel hatred with love.”
Chinese prisons are allowed to grant medical parole to inmates who are seriously ill or near death. Mr. Shang, the lawyer, said last year that Mr. Liu’s failing health could have qualified him for medical parole even then. But Mr. Liu refused to admit guilt as a condition for release, Mr. Shang said.
Mr. Liu’s father, Liu Ling, died in 2011 after developing liver cancer, Hong Kong newspapers reported at the time, citing a relative. The United States National Cancer Institute says that patients with advanced and end-stage liver cancer can receive treatment to ease the symptoms, but that “treatments are not likely to cure the cancer.”
The Chinese government will probably censor information about Mr. Liu’s illness to ensure that it does not cause wider political ripples, said Liang Xiaojun, a human rights lawyer in Beijing. No reports about his cancer and hospitalization appeared in the Chinese-language state-run news media, and many Chinese, especially younger people, have little or no understanding of Mr. Liu and his role in the 1989 protests.
“I think there will be a big reaction in the democracy movement,” Mr. Liang said. “But the government will probably shut down news about this, or dilute it, so it won’t have too much impact domestically.”
Chris Buckley reported from Beijing, and Austin Ramzy from Hong Kong.