Thursday 22 February 2018

Nobel winner freed from Chinese jail for cancer fight

A 2005 photo of 2010 Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo in Guangzhou in southern China. Photo: Getty Images
A 2005 photo of 2010 Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo in Guangzhou in southern China. Photo: Getty Images

Christian Shepherd in Beijing

Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winning rights activist Liu Xiaobo has been released from prison on medical parole and is being treated in hospital for late-stage liver cancer, his lawyer said yesterday.

Mr 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 in China.

In December 2010, Mr Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his activism promoting human rights in China, causing Beijing to freeze diplomatic ties with Norway.

China and Norway normalised ties in December last year.

Mo Shaoping, Mr Liu's lawyer, told Reuters that Mr Liu was being treated for late-stage liver cancer in Shenyang and that medical parole had been approved. He did not elaborate.

The prison bureau of Liaoning province, where Shenyang is located, confirmed the medical parole in a short statement on its website, adding that Mr Liu was being treated by eight people it described as "well-known tumour experts".

The public security ministry and justice ministry did not immediately respond to faxed requests for comment.

Tibetan writer and family friend Tsering Woeser said she had been in tears after reading online reports of Mr Liu's illness.

"I'm shocked and deeply saddened," she told Reuters. "All we can do now is pray for him."

Liu Xia, Mr Liu's wife, who has been under effective house arrest since her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize, is suffering from depression but has been allowed to visit him in prison about once a month, a source close to the dissident told Reuters.

Mr Liu was not allowed to attend his father-in-law's funeral last year and his mother-in-law's funeral this year, said the source.

Mr Liu had been incarcerated at Jinzhou Penitentiary in Liaoning, his home province in northeast China, before being moved to the hospital for treatment.

In Oslo, the five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee which awards the peace prize strongly criticised Beijing.

"The committee is pleased that Liu Xiaobo is out of prison, but at the same time regrets in the strongest terms that it took a serious illness before the Chinese authorities agreed to release him," it said in a rare statement.

"He was in reality sentenced for exercising his freedom of expression and should never have been jailed," it added, reiterating a standing invitation for Mr Liu to come to Norway.

Rights group Amnesty International also confirmed the news of Mr Liu's illness. Patrick Poon, a China researcher for Amnesty, said on Twitter that the diagnosis was made on May 23.

Irish Independent

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