Nobel Peace Prize winner and pro-democracy activist, Liu Xiaobo, is out of prison and being treated for advanced liver cancer, according to his lawyers. Mr. Liu was released June 26, 2017 on medical parole after serving seven of his eleven year sentence. He is confined to a hospital, though not released from custody. He and his wife would like to seek treatment outside of China.
In 2008, dozens of Chinese activists produced a political manifesto called Charter 08. The document is a list of demands to China’s leaders to make the country a liberal democracy. At the time, more than 300 activists in China signed, and many more did later from both inside and outside the country. Liu Xiaobo, a literary critic, writer, professor and activist is the only organizer to have been tried and convicted. In December of 2009, his charge of “inciting subversion of state power” resulted in an eleven year prison sentence.
Mr. Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 in recognition of “his long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China,” but international attention did nothing to change his situation. The world moved on as countries decided they had to work with China, not criticize it. Norway faced retaliation when China cut imports of Norwegian salmon, taking away their largest market. This action was in direct response to the Nobel Prize award, even though the Norwegian government does not choose who wins but simply chooses the five-person committee that does. Many countries, the US included, continue to place more weight on security and trade matters than on human rights.
Shortly after the Nobel announcement, his wife Liu Xia, a poet and photographer, was placed under strict house arrest in her Beijing apartment for almost seven years, except for monthly visits to see her husband. She has never been charged with any crime. Friends have circulated a cellphone video in which a crying Ms. Liu says doctors, “can’t operate, can’t use radiotherapy, can’t use chemotherapy” to treat her husband.
Mary Beth Polley, a spokeswoman for the US embassy in Beijing says, “We call on the Chinese authorities to not only release Mr. Liu but also to allow his wife, Ms. Liu Xia, out of house arrest.” She adds, “China should provide them the protection and freedom such as freedom of movement and access to medical care of his choosing to which they are entitled under the Chinese constitution and legal system and international commitments.”
Lu Kang, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said at a press briefing, “All other countries should respect China’s judicial independence and sovereignty and should not use any so-called individual case to interfere in China’s internal affairs. We have said many times that no country has the right to gesticulate about China’s internal affairs.”
Protest are currently taking place in Hong Kong and US officials are urging Donald Trump to push for his transfer while the State Department is “working to gather more information” on Mr. Liu’s legal and medical condition.
Liu Xia’s visit to her husband’s hospital room this week is thought to be the first time since 2010 the couple have been allowed to touch.