The hospital treating China’s cancer-stricken Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo offered a grim update on his health today, but human rights groups cautioned that the authorities may be manipulating the medical reports. The 61-year-old democracy advocate’s liver function continued to deteriorate and he suffered from “shock and organ failure”, according to the First Hospital of China Medical University in the northeastern city of Shenyang. The hospital’s website has been giving regular updates about Liu’s condition since he was admitted early last month after he was transferred from prison due to late-stage liver cancer.
The Chinese government has rebuffed international appeals to let Liu seek treatment abroad, saying he is getting the best possible care from top domestic doctors. The United States repeated calls on Tuesday for Liu to be released and said it was ready to welcome him if he chose to be treated there. US and German cancer experts visited Liu last weekend and determined that he was strong enough to be medically evacuated, but the hospital has issued pessimistic medical updates since then.
“As the authorities are controlling all the information about Liu Xiaobo’s health condition, it’s difficult to verify if the information released on the hospital’s website is true or not,” Amnesty International’s China researcher Patrick Poon told AFP. “It’s also legitimate to question if the authorities are releasing the information about his worsening health as an attempt to delay and justify not allowing Liu Xiaobo to leave the country,” Poon said. Human Rights Watch’s Asia researcher Maya Wang said there has been little information coming from Liu’s family about his health, limiting the amount of independent updates.
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“We simply don’t know to what extent this is professional medical reports and to what extent this is politically- manipulated information,” Wang said. Amid the medical updates, a video was leaked earlier this week showing the Western doctors praising their Chinese counterparts as they stood by Liu’s bedside. The scene was denounced as propaganda by rights groups while the German embassy said Monday it “seems that security organs are steering the process, not medical experts”.
But in an editorial, the state-run Global Times newspaper said the video aimed to show the Chinese doctors’ efforts to help him and said “Western forces are politicising Liu’s cancer treatment”. 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 sentenced to 11 years in prison in December 2009 for “subversion”. At the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo in 2010, he was represented by an empty chair.