Sunday 24 September 2017

Specialists say imprisoned Liu Xiaobo 'in final stages of terminal liver cancer'

Liu Xiaobo pictured in 2008, as fears grow for the political prisoner's health (AP Video via AP)
Liu Xiaobo pictured in 2008, as fears grow for the political prisoner's health (AP Video via AP)

Imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has been seen by American and German specialists who confirmed he is in the final stages of terminal liver cancer, a hospital says.

China allowed the two doctors to travel to the north east city of Shenyang to see its most prominent political prisoner.

It follows international criticism of Beijing's handling of his illness and calls for him to be treated abroad.

The First Hospital of China Medical University said the two experts on Saturday "fully affirmed" Mr Liu's treatment plan so far but his prognosis was grim.

"The patient is suffering from advanced liver cancer that has metastasised to his entire body and is at the end stage," the hospital said.

Mr Liu has accumulated a large amount of abdominal fluid, the statement said, saying his condition is "quite serious".

The hospital said the experts were Dr Markus W Buchler, of Heidelberg University in Germany, and Dr Joseph Herman, of the MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Texas.

It was impossible to independently verify the hospital's description of their views. A source familiar with the situation confirmed the experts have seen Mr Liu and spoken to his family.

The visits come as his illness has taken a turn for the worse. Chinese doctors said on Friday that they have stopped using cancer-fighting drugs so as not to overwhelm his severely weakened liver.

On Saturday, the hospital said the doctors may review MRI scans and further assess Mr Liu's liver function before deciding on whether to use radiation therapy, immunotherapy and other treatments.

"We will continue to provide nutritional support, pain relief and other forms of supportive care to improve the patient's quality of life as much as possible," the statement said.

In a sign of the seriousness of Mr Liu's decline, his younger and older brothers and their wives were allowed to see him, said Shang Baojun, his former lawyer.

At the hospital, Mr Liu has been mostly accompanied by his wife and her brother, both largely unreachable by the outside world due to restrictions by Chinese authorities.

Beijing activist Hu Jia, a family friend, said the relatives' visit was a sign that the authorities have acknowledged Mr Liu's rapid deterioration.

"I think the authorities are in crisis mode. They too are not sure if Liu Xiaobo will pass away soon because his condition is quite obviously worsening," he said.

"They don't want to bear too great a responsibility in this respect," he said. "The authorities think by doing this they could at least be accountable to the outside world and say Liu was with his loved ones at the very end."

Mr Liu's two brothers, who travelled from their homes in south and north east China, were being closely monitored by state security agents - making it difficult to maintain contact with them, Mr Hu said.

Beijing has come under criticism from Western governments for not fully releasing Mr Liu, who was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer in May.

He is serving an 11-year sentence for inciting subversion by advocating sweeping political reforms that would end one-party rule.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, the year after he was convicted and jailed by a Chinese court.

The office of the United Nations human rights chief has also expressed concern about Mr Liu's condition and said the Chinese government has provided no further information to the UN office for more than 24 hours.

Spokeswoman Liz Throssell said the UN should be granted access to Mr Liu and his wife.

China's foreign ministry had no immediate response to a request for comment.

AP

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