Liu Xiaobo, already in prison, was unable to attend the ceremony for his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo in 2010. His chair was left empty.Andersen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Doubts arise over Chinese Nobel winner Liu Xiaobo's inability to travel for cancer treatment
Friend says video description of imprisoned dissident’s condition as ‘acceptable’ casts doubt on government’s claim he is too sick to leave China
A friend of imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo said on Monday that he doubts the government’s claims that the ailing dissident is too sick to leave the country in part because of a video in which Liu is described as being in “acceptable” condition.
Whether Liu is able to travel is a key question in negotiations for his possible release from a Chinese hospital. The US and the European Union have been calling on Beijing to allow China’s most famous political prisoner, recently diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer, to choose where he wants to be treated.
Shang Baojun, Liu’s former lawyer, has said Chinese officials have told Liu’s family members that his health was so poor that he could not travel.
Liu’s friend Hu Jia, a political dissident, said on Monday that a video that emerged on YouTube over the weekend appeared to indicate that Liu was in stable condition. Medical experts were seen saying that Liu’s treatment plan was going smoothly.
“Currently, his situation is acceptable,” an unidentified male doctor in a white coat was seen saying in the video, which did not include any images of Liu and was dated Wednesday.
A separate photo that has been circulating online showed Liu holding a bowl and being spoon-fed by his wife. Liu did not appear to be hooked up to life-support.
“Based on the videos and the photo, we know for sure that his conditions have not deteriorated,” Hu said. “There’s no question that Liu Xiaobo can travel.”
William Fingleton, spokesman for the European Union delegation in China, said EU diplomats met with a Chinese vice minister of justice on Friday regarding Liu’s treatment. Fingleton did not provide details on the discussion.
In a statement released later on Friday, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, urged China to immediately grant Liu parole on humanitarian grounds, citing Liu’s deteriorating health.
Mogherini also said that China should “allow him to receive medical assistance at a place of his choosing in China or overseas”, and that Liu and his wife should be free to communicate with the outside world.
Reliable, independent information on Liu’s condition and his desire to travel has been difficult to obtain, as Liu and his wife, Liu Xia, have long been isolated by the authorities, out of the reach of most friends and the media. While the couple have not publicly stated their willingness to go abroad, their friends believe they wish to do so, based on Liu Xia’s earlier indications to her friends.
China’s foreign ministry said on Monday that it has no information on Liu’s case. “I can only say that we hope that the relevant countries can respect China’s judicial sovereignty instead of making use of this individual case to interfere in China’s domestic affairs,” spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular news briefing.
China’s justice department did not immediately respond to faxed questions about Liu’s case.
Liu, a writer and an outspoken government critic, was sentenced in 2009 to 11 years in prison on a charge of inciting subversion of state power, a year after he co-authored Charter ‘08, a document calling for democracy and rule of law in China. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while incarcerated.
Liu Xiaobo, China’s Prescient Dissident
By Jiayang Fan
July 3, 2017
China’s lone Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the political dissident Liu Xiaobo, is gravely ill. In 2008, Liu, a prolific essayist and poet, was working on a manifesto advocating peaceful democratic reform, which became known as Charter 08, when the Chinese government tried him and found him guilty of “inciting subversion of state power.” Since then, he has been serving an eleven-year sentence at a prison in the remote northeastern province of Liaoning, and his wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest in Beijing, despite the lack of any charges against her. Liu’s diagnosis of late-stage liver cancer came at the end of last month. The prognosis is grim. In a video that a friend of the couple’s shared on social media, Liu’s wife says, through tears, that the doctors “can’t do surgery, can’t do radiation therapy, can’t do chemotherapy.”
Yet even this particularly wretched twist of fate has not liberated the man who has devoted his life to fighting for liberty. Although Liu, who is now sixty-one, has been transferred to a hospital in Shenyang, on medical parole, he has yet to be granted release from his sentence. Last Thursday, his lawyer said that the authorities are refusing to allow him to travel abroad for medical treatment. In response to a statement from the United States Embassy calling for the couple to be given “genuine freedom,” the Chinese foreign ministry warned that “no country has a right to interfere and make irresponsible remarks on Chinese internal affairs.” It added that “China is a country with rule of law, where everybody is equal in front of the law.”
This is a curious remark, given the increasingly repressive regime that the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, has fostered since taking office, in 2013. Civil society and the rule of law were part of what Liu campaigned for more than a decade ago, but, as unlikely as those concepts seemed then, they are less certain now. After a period of enforced ideological conformity, the government has expanded its security apparatus, increased censorship, tightened its control of nongovernmental organizations, and toughened surveillance laws. Rights lawyers and activists have been arrested and jailed, and others have fled abroad.
Liu once had opportunities to do so himself. A scholar of Chinese literature and philosophy, he taught at Beijing Normal University in the nineteen-eighties, where he became known for his frank reappraisals of China’s past and present, particularly of the brutalities imposed during the decades under Mao. Liu’s passion and audacity could at times be provoking to both his peers and to the public, but they spoke to a deep investment in his country’s future and his determination to contribute to it.
His intellectual honesty rendered him vulnerable yet dauntless. In the spring of 1989, Liu was in New York, where he was teaching at Barnard College, when the student protests calling for democracy and accountability began in Tiananmen Square. He returned to Beijing and stayed in the square for several days, talking to the students about how democratic politics must be “politics without hatred and without enemies.” When Premier Li Peng imposed martial law, Liu negotiated with the Army to allow demonstrators a safe exit from Tiananmen. But, at the beginning of June, the Party ordered a crackdown, in which hundreds of people were killed. (The state has never permitted an official tally.) For Liu’s involvement in the events, the Chinese press labelled him a “mad dog” and a “Black Hand” for allegedly manipulating the will of the people, and he was sentenced to two years in prison for “counter-revolutionary propaganda.”
After his release, Liu was offered asylum in the Australian Embassy, but he refused it. Similar offers came again and again, but a life in which Liu did not feel that he could make a direct impact held no appeal for him. At a time when other intellectuals, registering the need for self-preservation, turned to writing books less likely to be banned on the mainland, Liu chose to prioritize his principles, in order to be an “authentic” person. He was barred from publishing and giving public lectures in China, but on foreign Web sites he wrote more than a thousand articles promoting humanitarianism and democracy; he called the Internet “God’s gift to China.” Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, in 2010, while he was serving his sentence, in recognition of “his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”
In an essay titled “Changing the Regime by Changing Society”—which during his trial was cited as evidence of his counter-revolutionary ideals—Liu expressed hope that the Chinese people would awaken to their situation and that their new awareness would forge a sense of solidarity against the state. But he also warned of a growing moral vacuum in the nation. He wrote:
China has entered an Age of Cynicism in which people no longer believe in anything. . . . Even high officials and other Communist Party members no longer believe Party verbiage. Fidelity to cherished beliefs has been replaced by loyalty to anything that brings material benefit. Unrelenting inculcation of Chinese Communist Party ideology has . . . produced generations of people whose memories are blank.
It’s impossible to say what access Liu has had to the outside world during his incarceration. It would certainly pain him to see how little younger people in China care or even know about the events in Tiananmen (the subject is strictly censored in the media) and how the nation’s growing international prominence has obscured its domestic ills—though he predicted as much. “The Chinese Communists are concentrating on economics, seeking to make themselves part of globalization, and are courting friends internationally precisely by discarding their erstwhile ideology,” he wrote in 2006. “When the ‘rise’ of a large dictatorial state that commands rapidly increasing economic strength meets with no effective deterrence from outside, but only an attitude of appeasement from the international mainstream, the results will not only be another catastrophe for the Chinese people, but likely also a disaster for the spread of liberal democracy in the world.” It perhaps would not surprise him to hear that last week, austerity-stricken Greece, which is courting Chinese investment, blocked a European Union effort to issue a statement condemning China’s human-rights violations.
As the news of Liu’s illness spread surreptitiously throughout China, democracy activists started a petition far narrower in its ambitions than Charter 08. It asks only for Liu to be freed and to be given whatever medical care might help him now. He would surely be grateful to his supporters for that gesture, but more than his illness he would regret how correctly he diagnosed Beijing’s recurring authoritarian impulses and his countrymen’s growing indifference to them. Liu has always been a man of ideas, but that prescience will be of no comfort to anyone.
Jiayang Fan became a staff writer at The New Yorker in 2016.
China refuses cancer treatment abroad for Nobel winner Liu Xiaobo
By Steven Jiang, CNN
Beijing (CNN)Nobel Peace Prize-winning Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo has been refused permission to travel overseas to receive cancer treatment.
Liu, 61, was granted medical parole and released from jail earlier this month after he was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer.
A Chinese vice minister of justice met with diplomats from the US, Germany and the EU on Thursday to brief them about Liu's case, and told the diplomats that Liu can't go abroad for treatment because he is too sick to travel, according to a source familiar with the meeting.
Liu had been serving an 11-year prison sentence for "inciting subversion of state power" in Jinzhou, near the city of Shenyang in northeastern China.
His case has come under an international spotlight amid allegations from his supporters that he had become gravely ill because his cancer wasn't treated in prison.
In a statement released Wednesday, Shenyang authorities appeared to attempt to dispel this speculation, saying his cancer was diagnosed less than a month ago, on June 7, after a routine check-up found unusual symptoms on May 31.
A medical team comprised of eight renowned oncologists have seen Liu seven times and formed a treatment plan, it said, adding that the hospital has invited traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners to join the team at the request of Liu's family.
US ambassador's appeal
Terry Branstad, the new US ambassador to China, on Wednesday urged Beijing to let Liu seek cancer treatment overseas.
In his first public remarks since arriving in China, the former Iowa governor told reporters that he hoped the two sides could work together to address Liu's condition.
"It's very serious," he said. "Obviously, our hearts go out to him and his wife and we're interested in doing what can be done to see if it's possible. We Americans would like to see him have the opportunity for treatment elsewhere, if that could be of help."
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman dismissed the ambassador's appeal.
"Liu Xiaobo is a Chinese citizen," said Lu Kang at a regular press briefing Wednesday. "Why should we discuss his case with other countries?"
Liu's plight has become a rallying point for activists in Hong Kong, which is hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping as part of festivities to mark 20 years of Chinese rule in the former British coloy.
A video posted Wednesday by Boxun, an overseas Chinese news website known for its access to Chinese government sources, appeared to show Liu working, exercising and meeting visiting family members in prison.
It also shows him receiving medical check-ups and treatment in prison and at hospitals.
Liu could be heard describing how prison officials had been taking good care of him, especially his health, and expressing his gratitude to them.
The statement from Shenyang's judicial authorities said that Liu's wife, Liu Xia, was staying with him at the hospital.
"Liu Xiaobo and his family members are satisfied with the work and treatment by the prison and the hospital," it said.
The statement also said Liu had a history of hepatitis B before imprisonment and prison authorities had provided him with an annual physical examination as well as monthly checkup -- and no abnormal conditions had been found before the recent diagnosis.
A prolific writer and longtime activist, Liu had been in and out of jail since the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.
His most recent conviction, on Christmas Day 2009, stemmed from his co-authorship of Charter 08, a manifesto calling for political reform and human rights in China.
In 2010, while in prison, Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for "his long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China."
CNN's Katie Hunt in Hong Kong contributed to this report.
Liu Xiaobo Embodied Hope for China’s Democracy. Now He’s Sick.
By STEVEN LEE MYERS and AUSTIN RAMZYJUNE 27, 2017
BEIJING — In the fall of 2008, dozens of activists secretly worked to produce a political manifesto. It was only 3,554 Chinese characters long, but it listed a series of demands on China’s leaders to make the country a liberal democracy.
Less than a decade later, one of the main authors, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, is confined in a hospital, released from prison though not from custody, to be treated for what his lawyers described as an advanced case of liver cancer.
Mr. Liu’s imprisonment and now his illness have become a grim reflection of the fate of that cause, one born in hope but crushed by China’s intolerance of dissent — and the world’s increasing resignation, even acquiescence, to it, given the country’s diplomatic and economic clout.
The document was called Charter 08 and was modeled after one published by dissidents in Czechoslovakia under Communist rule, Charter 77. More than 300 activists in China signed at first — and many more did later, inside and outside of the country.
While almost no one expects China to become a democracy now, that was at least a hope in 2008.
“When Charter 08 was signed, there was a yearning for more open dialogue and talk about a peaceful societal transition,” said one of the signatories, Ai Xiaoming, a scholar and documentary filmmaker in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. “But now there is even more strict social control, and the room for civil society has shrunk significantly.”
Ms. Ai, who met Mr. Liu before his imprisonment, also expressed guilt that he alone among the organizers had been convicted and sentenced so harshly — to 11 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” — though many others also faced harassment that forced them underground or out of the country.
International attention — Mr. Liu was awarded the Nobelin 2010 — gave Ms. Ai and others hope of protecting him, but the world moved on, even as China tightened its controls over nonprofit organizations and moved to arrest lawyers.
“It’s sad to see he’s no longer the center of attention,” Ms. Ai said in a telephone interview. “We had a kind of illusion that the government would be nice to him given his international influence. Now I doubt that was the case.”
Mr. Liu’s wife, the poet and photographer Liu Xia, has been under strict house arrest in Beijing since his Nobel Prize was announced. Friends circulated a cellphone video on Monday in which a crying Ms. Liu said doctors “can’t operate, can’t use radiotherapy, can’t use chemotherapy” to treat her husband’s cancer.
Mr. Liu’s Nobel Prize — in recognition of “his long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China” — focused attention on his fate, but over the years he was sidelined if not forgotten by the pragmatic needs of countries that felt no choice but to work with China, not criticize it.
China’s response to the prize illustrated the risks of going against it. Norway’s government has no say in who wins the prize, but it is awarded by a five-person committee chosen by the Norwegian Parliament. China swiftly cut imports of Norwegian salmon, depriving Norway of its largest market.
China wields those sorts of economic levers with great effect, Graham T. Allison argues in a new book, “Destined for War,” about the potential collision of the United States and a rising China.
“Few governments have had the capabilities or will to resist,” Mr. Allison, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard, said by email from Dalian, China, where he was attending the World Economic Forum’s annual summer meeting.
In the case of Norway, its diplomats persuaded China to restore full relations after making a series of conciliatory gestures that dismayed human rights campaigners there and in China.
For the United States, the focus on China’s record of human rights has become increasingly muted, especially under President Trump, reflecting the conflicting
“China is very smart about this,” said Hu Jia, a rights advocate in Beijing. He noted how Greece, which is courting Chinese investment, recently thwarted a European Union effort to make a statement about human rights abuses in specific countries to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
“Because of issues like economic cooperation, security, North Korea and terrorism, leaders aren’t as willing to raise human rights problems with China,” Mr. Hu said.
Charter 08 was signed in the twilight of the administration of President George W. Bush, who used his second term to advance what the White House promoted as a “Freedom Agenda” in the aftermath of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. President Barack Obama vocally championed human rights around the world, but he pursued the issue less vigorously when it came to China.
Mr. Obama praised Mr. Liu’s Nobel Prize, but when the Senate passed legislation that would have renamed a street in front of China’s embassy in Washington after him, the administration signaled that Mr. Obama would veto it. The bill quietly died in the Republican-controlled House after Mr. Trump’s election last fall.
Mr. Trump and his advisers have clearly indicated that human rights are less important on the president’s agenda than security and trade matters.
“Human rights has retreated in terms of people’s interest in China,” said Jerome Cohen, director of the U.S.-Asia Law Institute at New York University’s School of Law.
The fear of being excluded from China’s market is palpable. “Everybody is under pressure from constituents to have a piece of the action,” Mr. Cohen said. “Of course, the U.S. no longer asks other countries to do anything, because we decided it’s not important for our purposes.”
Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, going against tradition, did not introduce his department’s annual human rights report in March, though he appeared with Ivanka Trump at the department on Tuesday to introduce a similar report on human trafficking. For the first time, the department reduced China’s rating to the lowest tier of countries, signaling that it has exerted minimal effort to combat trafficking.
On Wednesday morning, the new American ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, said that the Trump administration would like to help arrange medical treatment for Mr. Liu abroad, a day after the American Embassy said it had called on China to release him and his wife.
“We’re interested in doing what can be done to see if it is possible,” Mr. Branstad said in brief remarks to reporters outside the embassy residence in Beijing. “We as Americans would like to see him have the opportunity for treatment elsewhere, if that could be of help.”
As news of Mr. Liu’s illness emerged, China’s beleaguered democracy advocates issued a new petition, one that was far more modest than Charter 08. It simply called for Mr. Liu and his wife to be unconditionally released and urged that he be given the medical treatment he needed. Within hours it had more than 400 signatures.
Steven Lee Myers reported from Beijing, and Austin Ramzy from Hong Kong.