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World & Nation

Health of Chinese Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo worsens, hospital says

Activists send postcards to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo
A Hong Kong activist holds a postcard with messages of support for dissident Liu Xiaobo.
(Alex Hofford / European Pressphoto Agency)

Ailing Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo’s health is further deteriorating, said a friend and the Chinese hospital that is treating him for liver cancer, adding to concerns about the long-term prognosis of the country’s best-known political prisoner.

The First Hospital of China Medical University said in a statement that the doctor heading a medical team in charge of Liu’s treatment has informed his family that his abdominal fluid is accumulating. The statement appeared Thursday on the website of the hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang, but it was undated.

A family friend confirmed Thursday that Liu’s family had been asked to be on standby in the hospital over the next 24 hours, and that the family took that as a sign that Liu is critically ill.

“We are worried about whether we should start planning for what to do after he leaves,” said the friend, Wu Yangwei, who is better known by his pen name, Ye Du.

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Liu was diagnosed in May while serving a 11-year sentence for inciting subversion by advocating sweeping political reforms that would end China’s one-party rule. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, a year after his conviction.

Since the diagnosis was made public in late June, his supporters, Western governments and human rights groups have been urging Beijing to release Liu and give him the freedom to choose where he wants to be treated. Beijing has maintained that this is an internal affair and that Liu is under the care of experts in the Chinese medical facility.

Maya Wang, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, on Thursday called the treatment of the Nobel peace laureate “shameful.”

“The Chinese government’s treatment of Liu Xiaobo, which includes holding him and his family even in his dying days, reveal the cruelty and ruthlessness of the Chinese government,” Wang said. “How can such a government be considered as a reliable and responsible partner for global leadership?”

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The hospital statement also included the names of some of the experts — including Dr. Mao Yilei, a reputed expert on liver cancer at the prestigious Peking Union Medical College Hospital — who conducted consultations on the case on the day the statement was released, which was most likely Thursday.

In a likely response to criticism that China might have failed to adequately care for Liu, the statement said the experts approved of prior treatments of Liu. They also adjusted some of the treatments, the hospital said.

Mao informed Liu’s family of the latest development on behalf of the medical team, and Liu’s family said they understood, the statement said.

The statement was impossible to verify with Liu’s wife or other family members, who have been out of contact and are said to face restrictions on their movements and communications with the outside world.

Calls to the hospital were unanswered on Thursday.

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