Britain and the European Union have joined a growing chorus of voices calling for China to completely free its most famous political prisoner, the dying Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo.
A spokesperson for the British embassy in Beijing said Britain had “repeatedly expressed serious concern at the treatment of Liu Xiaobo by the Chinese authorities”.
“We continue to urge the Chinese authorities to ensure Liu Xiaobo has access to his choice of medical treatment, in a location of his choice, and to lift all restrictions on him and his wife Liu Xia,” the spokesperson added.
A spokesperson for the EU delegation in Beijing said it had discussed the activist’s case with the authorities and asked “that China immediately grant Mr Liu parole on humanitarian grounds and allow him to receive medical assistance at a place of his choosing in China or overseas.”
In an earlier statement the EU had said it also expected China “to remove all limitations on the movements of Mr Liu’s wife and family members”.
The calls came one day after two foreign doctors who were allowed to visit the dissident in hospital announced they believed he was well enough to be moved overseas, despite Chinese claims to the contrary.
In the light of that announcement, Jared Genser, a US lawyer who represents Liu and is lobbying for his evacuation, called on Chinese president Xi Jinping to immediately free his client. He said Liu had expressed a desire to receive treatment in Germany or the United States, with hospitals in both countries ready and willing to take him in.
“President Xi should honour a dying man’s wishes to be able to leave China and to obtain better treatment that is available abroad,” and could extend Liu’s life by several weeks, Genser said.
“My view is that not only should this happen, but that this must happen and I also believe that there will be enormous pressure placed on President Xi from the international community to relent,” he added.
The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is also among those calling Liu’s release. “This is a historic mistake … this is going to be remembered the whole world,” he said.
In a statement, the executive director of Pen America, Suzanne Nossel, said “the Chinese government’s morality and humanity” would be tested by its decision to allow Liu to leave China or not. “There can be no more powerful indicator of Beijing’s respect for human dignity than their treatment of Liu Xiaobo in this time of need.”
Liu, a veteran democracy activist and writer who became a lifelong campaigner after witnessing the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer in May while serving an 11-year prison sentence for subversion. He is being held, reportedly under police guard, in a hospital in north-east China where authorities insist he is receiving “meticulous treatment”.
Liu was detained in late 2008 for his involvement in a pro-democracy manifesto called Charter 08 and was found guilty of incitement to subvert state power – effectively working to topple China’s one-party state – on Christmas Day the following year.
In 2010 he received the Nobel peace prize for his “unflinching and peaceful advocacy for reform”. Unable to attend the award ceremony in Oslo because he was in jail, Liu was represented by an empty chair.
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment but has previously rejected calls for Liu – who Beijing paints as a common criminal – to be freed.
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