Doctors Say Chinese Dissident Is Fit to Travel for Cancer Treatment

BEIJING — Liu Xiaobo, the political prisoner and Nobel laureate who is on medical parole in a Chinese hospital to treat late-stage liver cancer, is fit to travel abroad to receive medical care, doctors from the United States and Germany said on Sunday.

The doctors, Joseph M. Herman of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Markus Büchler of the University of Heidelberg, who evaluated Mr. Liu on Saturday, said he had indicated that he wanted to be sent abroad for the remainder of his treatment.

“While a degree of risk always exists in the movement of any patient, both physicians believe Mr. Liu can be safely transported with appropriate medical evacuation care and support,” the doctors said in a joint statement. They added that they were willing to provide Mr. Liu such care.

Shang Baojun, a lawyer who represented Mr. Liu at his trial in 2009 on charges of state subversion, said by phone, “He said his first preference would be Germany, but if that wasn’t workable, then the United States would be fine, too.”

Mr. Shang said he was not sure why Mr. Liu preferred Germany, but that seemed to be the first preference of his wife, Liu Xia, who is under house arrest. The lawyer, other people close to Mr. Liu and his wife have asked that he be allowed to travel abroad for treatment, but have not given a clear reason. They appear to be driven by distrust of Chinese hospitals and a desire for him to regain some freedom. Human rights activists have also questioned the medical care he has been receiving.

Mr. Liu’s condition appears to be rapidly deteriorating. Dr. Herman and Dr. Büchler concurred with Chinese experts who said in May that Mr. Liu has primary liver cancer. They said that additional treatment options might exist, such as radiotherapy. They also said they recognized the “quality of care” that he had been receiving in China.

The doctors’ assessment of Mr. Liu’s ability to travel renews pressure on China to grant more liberties to Mr. Liu, who is serving an 11-year sentence after being convicted of state subversion. One of China’s most prominent dissidents, Mr. Liu led efforts to promote political liberalization in the country until his arrest in 2008.

China’s rules on medical parole assume that prisoners released on medical parole will be treated in China under the continued supervision of the prison authorities and the police. In addition, Chinese officials have said that Mr. Liu is too sick to travel.

But First Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang in northeastern China, which is treating Mr. Liu, invited German and American doctors to evaluate him in person after facing intense pressure to allow the dissident to travel overseas for medical treatment.

Going abroad for treatment would probably require an exception from China’s rules for medical parole, the lawyer, Mr. Shang, said. But China has made such exceptions in the past, he noted.

Wei Jingsheng, a prominent Chinese human rights activist who was imprisoned in 1994, left for the United States while he was on medical parole and was treated by a hospital in Detroit. In 1994, Wang Juntao, a prominent dissident who was imprisoned after the crackdown on protests in 1989, was allowed to travel to the United States for treatment for hepatitis and a heart problem despite a 13-year prison sentence.

Since that time, China’s leaders have become increasingly reluctant to release prisoners to the West, even on medical grounds. Some of Mr. Liu’s supporters have called on President Xi Jinping to give him amnesty.

“The Constitution allows the president to grant special pardons,” Bao Tong, a former official and friend of Mr. Liu’s, said by telephone. “In this case, Xi Jinping should exercise that power so that Liu Xiaobo can go abroad for treatment.”

Article 80 of China’s Constitution allows the president to grant special pardons based on the national legislature’s decision.

American officials on Sunday reiterated calls to allow Mr. Liu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 for his human rights advocacy, to seek care abroad.

“We continue to call on the Chinese authorities to grant Mr. Liu full parole and to release his wife, Liu Xia, from house arrest and to allow them to travel to seek specialized care that would ease his suffering in his final days,” said Mary Beth Polley, a spokeswoman for the United States Embassy in Beijing.

Human rights advocates have criticized the government for not treating Mr. Liu’s illness earlier and have called on Chinese officials to allow him to receive treatment overseas.

“There should not be any more excuse by the Chinese authorities, as these experts have already made it clear that they are ready to accept Liu Xiaobo for treatment,” Patrick Poon, a researcher for Amnesty International in Hong Kong, wrote in an email.

News Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/09/world/asia/liu-xiaobo-china-cancer.html?mcubz=1

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