Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo’s “time is limited” due to a fluid build up around his stomach caused by liver scarring, a family member said, after authorities said Liu could not be moved abroad due to his illness. Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu, 61, was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” after he helped write a petition known as “Charter 08” calling for sweeping political reforms. He was being treated in the city of Shenyang for late-stage liver cancer after being granted medical parole, his lawyer told Reuters on Monday.
“His physical condition is not good and has shifted to ascites due to cirrhosis,” the family member said in a message seen by Reuters, referring to a build-up of fluid in the abdominal cavity caused by advanced liver scarring. “It seems his time is limited,” the message said. Two sources close to the family confirmed the authenticity of the message, which was sent late on Thursday, but asked that both their identities and the identity of the sender remain secret to avoid harassment from authorities.
A man who answered the phone at the hospital where Liu is being treated said he was not aware of the case.Chinese authorities on Thursday told U.S., German and European Union diplomats that Liu could not be moved to get medical treatment elsewhere due to his illness and that his family agreed he should be treated where he is, a source briefed on the meeting told Reuters.
Asked on Friday about China’s discussions with other countries, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang said: “The relevant issue is an internal affair of China’s. I cannot see any need to discuss this with any other country.” The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, called on China to immediately grant Liu parole on humanitarian grounds, allow him to be treated overseas if he wished and freely communicate with the outside world.
One source close to Liu’s family said he did not consider the change in Liu’s illness sufficient reason for him to want to stay in China. “Liu Xiaobo is not just looking for a place to die free; he also wants to find a means of freeing his wife and brother,” the source said. In a late Friday statement, the Shenyang legal bureau cited Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, as saying she believed the hospital was doing all it could for her husband, thanked the medical experts and agreed to traditional Chinese medicine to help the treatment.
Liu Xia has been under effective house arrest since her husband won the peace prize in 2010. Amnesty International told Reuters on Tuesday she had told Chinese authorities she wanted her husband to get treatment abroad. Western politicians and rights activists have voiced concern about the quality of Liu Xiaobo’s treatment and should be allowed to leave China if that was the best option.
On Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad said the United States would like to see Liu treated elsewhere, if that would help him. A German foreign ministry source on Thursday told Reuters Liu should receive the medical treatment that he needs and wants.