In this image taken from Jan 6, 2008, video footage by AP Video, Liu Xiaobo speaks during an interview in his home in Beijing, China. According to a statement Friday, July 7, 2017, on the website of the First Hospital of China Medical University, the Chinese medical team charged with treating imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo has stopped using cancer-fighting drugs so as not to overwhelm his severely weakened liver, raising concerns that China's most prominent political prisoner is critically ill. (AP Video via AP)

Foreign doctors deem ill Chinese Nobel laureate OK to travel

July 09, 2017 - 4:40 am
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BEIJING (AP) — Two foreign specialists who visited Liu Xiaobo said Sunday that the cancer-stricken Nobel Peace Prize laureate is still able to travel abroad for treatment, apparently contradicting statements by Chinese experts who say a medical evacuation would be unsafe.

The American and German doctors, who saw Liu on Saturday, issued a joint statement saying that their home institutions — the University of Heidelberg and the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas — have agreed to accept Liu, but that any evacuation would have to take place "as quickly as possible."

Liu, China's most prominent political dissident, was diagnosed in May with late-stage liver cancer while serving an 11-year sentence for inciting subversion by advocating sweeping political reforms that would end China's one-party rule.

The differing opinions about the feasibility of Liu traveling could further complicate the tug-of-war over the 61-year-old activist.

For weeks, family and supporters have asked for Liu to be fully released and allowed to receive treatment abroad, while the Chinese government has maintained that he's receiving the best treatment possible at the First Hospital of China Medical University in the northern city of Shenyang. Chinese state media have labeled Liu a convicted criminal, and the authorities have warned other countries to stay out of its internal affairs.

Following international criticism, China allowed the two foreign experts, Dr. Markus W. Buchler of Heidelberg University and Dr. Joseph Herman of the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, to visit Liu over the weekend.

Buchler and Herman said in their statement Sunday that they "acknowledged" the quality of care that Liu has received in Shenyang, but judged that Liu "can be safely transported with appropriate medical evacuation care and support."

The hospital itself released a brief online statement late Saturday that quoted an unnamed Chinese expert as saying that it would be unsafe for Liu to travel abroad.

Shang Baojun, a former lawyer for Liu who remains close to the family, told The Associated Press on Saturday that Liu was coherent during the visit with the foreign doctors and repeated in English that he wanted to go abroad for treatment, preferably to Germany, although the U.S. would also be fine.

"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," Mary Beth Polley, the spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, said in response to questions from the AP.

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Associated Press writer Gillian Wong contributed to this report.

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