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June 26, 2017 - Updated on July 26, 2017

Nobel laureate with terminal cancer moved to hospital

Photo AFP - Sam Yeh
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) regrets that it took a terminal cancer diagnosis for the Chinese government to move Liu Xiaobo to hospital. The free speech activist, who was awarded the RSF Press Freedom Prize in 2004 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, is still not free although he was officially granted medical parole and his wife, Liu Xia, remains under house arrest.

Liu’s exit from prison today after eight years in detention should have been good news but in fact he has only been transferred to hospital after being been diagnosed with late-stage terminal liver cancer. His lawyer said he is now in a hospital in Shenyang (the capital of the northeastern province of Liaoning), near the prison where he was held.


“It is regrettable that it was only after such a grave diagnosis that he could be moved to hospital, and he is still not free” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Everything must now be done to ensure that Liu, who embodies resistance to oppression and the fight for free speech in China, can be treated properly and leave the country if he so wishes.”


An emblematic figure in the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations, during which he went on hunger strike, Liu taught at Columbia University (in the United States) and Beijing Normal University. He was serving an 11-year prison sentence for “inciting subversion of state power.”


Wife still under house arrest


“Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest since October 2010 and is suffering from depression because of the way the authorities have isolated and harassed her although no court ever convicted her,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s Taipei-based East Asia bureau. “We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Liu Xiaobo, Liu Xia and all other prisoners of consciences and detained journalists and bloggers.”


Liu Xiaobo was arrested on 23 June 2009 and was convicted on 25 December of the same year for posting the “Charter 08” manifesto online calling for respect for human rights and an end to one-party rule in China. He previously spent 18 months in preventive detention and three years doing forced labour for advocating non-violent democratic reforms.


In 2010, Liu Xiaobo became the first Chinese citizen to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize even if he was unable to travel to Stockholm to collect it. The prize was symbolically presented to an empty chair despite threats of reprisals by the Chinese authorities. He was the world’s only detained Nobel peace laureate.


RSF conducted repeated campaigns on behalf of its 2004 Press Freedom laureate and tried repeatedly to draw the international community’s attention to his fate.


Wu’er Kaixi and Wang Dan, two human rights defenders who took part in the Tiananmen Square protests, said: “We believe that Liu Xiaobo's physical and mental suffering in China's prison system is the fundamental cause of the deterioration of his health, and we take this opportunity to express our reaffirmation of the fact that the Chinese government deliberately sentenced him to death over the past nine years of the sentence he has served due simply to his outspoken thinking.”


Still one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists, China is ranked near the bottom of RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index – 176th out of 180 countries.