THE CHINESE government has not offered any response to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s request to visit cancer-stricken dissident Liu Xiaobo, whose condition is said to be deteriorating quickly.
According to media reports and claims from Xiaobo’s friends, the authorities have also deflected all other attempts to allow outsiders to visit China’s most famous political prisoner.
In a press briefing Friday, Liz Throssell, spokesperson for the UN commissioner, said 24 hours have passed since the visit request was made but there’s been nothing yet from the Chinese side.
“As you know, we have been engaging with the Chinese authorities about the situation of Liu Xiaobo and his wife, Liu Xia. However, we have received no further information from the Chinese government,” she said.
“The welcome request for medical support for Liu Xiaobo should be responded to urgently, and amid these latest reports of the deterioration of his health, we believe the UN should be granted access to both Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia.”
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang in a regular press briefing on Friday expressed displeasure at the UN’s involvement in the matter, likely pointing to Zeid Ra’ad’s recent meeting with Chinese officials.
“Relevant UN officials should strictly abide by the UN charter’s purposes and principles, should respect China’s judicial sovereignty and not interfere in China’s internal affairs,” he said, according to Reuters. He declined, however, to comment further on Xiaobo’s treatment in China and media access to his family.
Xiaobo, a Nobel laureate, is currently being treated for last stage liver cancer at a hospital in north China’s Shenyang City. The 61-year-old was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” after he helped write a petition known as the “Charter 08”, which called for sweeping political reforms in China.
He was in December 2010 awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work promoting human rights in China, a move that led to Beijing freezing ties with Norway. Both powers normalised relations, however, in December 2016.
On June 26, the Liaoning Prison Administration Bureau confirmed that Liu had been granted medical parole due to his liver cancer. But while the decision was commended, international rights groups, Xiaobo’s supporters, family and friends say it may be too little too late.
Xiaobo’s wife, Xia, who is also under house arrest, said in a recent teary video posted on Twitter that her husband was beyond treatment.
Chinese Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo who was sentenced for 11 yrs is in the final stage of liver cancer. pic.twitter.com/fYOWR73f9w
— Vanessa 文姗 (@Vanessa_Zhang18) June 26, 2017
The activist’s friends, meanwhile, have launched an online petition hoping to ramp up pressure on Beijing to allow them a final visit – on humanitarian grounds.
According to The Guardian, the petition says: “We are filled with sorrow [and] realise we don’t have much time left with Liu Xiaobo, who will soon be done.”
Mo Zhixu, one of the petition’s signatories, said Xiaobo’s friends were desperate to see him.
“Liu is nearing the end… At this stage, it is also our duty as Liu Xiaobo’s friends to visit him and to talk to him. We must visit him,” he was quoted saying in the UK daily’s report.
However, Mo’s attempt to visit his friend in Shenyang city was fruitless.
Patrick Poon, an Amnesty campaigner and another acquaintance of Xiaobo’s, said it was likely the Chinese authorities were preventing outsider visits to avoid triggering others to do the same. He claimed Beijing did not want it to look like Xiaobo was still enjoying popular support.
Meanwhile, the US is said to be arranging for a medical expert to examine Xiaobo in Shenyang, in response to an invite from the local hospital. The activist is currently also being treated by a German cancer specialist.
Speculation is rife that China is growing nervous over all the attention on Xiaobo, fearing it may overshadow President Xi Jinping’s appearance at the Group of 20 nations Summit in Hamburg, Germany, on Friday and Saturday.