China has invited liver cancer experts from the U.S., Germany and other countries to join a medical team treating imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, authorities said Wednesday.
The judicial bureau in the city where Liu is being treated said Liu's medical team agreed to a request by Liu's family members for foreign experts to be consulted. Liu, China's best-known political prisoner, is being treated at a Shenyang hospital for late-stage liver cancer diagnosed in late May.
The bureau said in an online statement that the invited experts were "the most authoritative liver cancer treatment experts," but gave no other details. Other countries whose experts had been invited weren't named and U.S. and German officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Amid international criticism over how China is handling Liu's ailing condition, authorities say they have assembled a team of eight Chinese specialists to oversee his treatment and have released statements testifying to the care he is receiving. Yet his friends have raised concerns that Liu, his wife and other family members have not been able to freely communicate with the outside and that their messages have been tightly controlled by authorities.
"Having foreign experts on the medical team is no replacement for Liu Xiaobo and his family to freely choose how and where he should be treated," Liu's friend, scholar Wen Kejian, said Wednesday. "We have not been able to speak to family members, who are under pressure not to speak to us."
Wen said he believes Liu and his family want to seek medical treatment overseas and that it is important for Liu to be allowed to communicate with his friends for the sake of his emotional health as he battles the liver cancer that has metastasized to his entire body.
Together with another friend, Mo Zhixu, Wen tried to visit Liu at the First Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang where the authorities said Liu is being treated. They made inquiries at likely floors, but nurses told Wen and Mo that they were not aware of a patient by the name of Liu Xiaobo.
Western governments also have been urging Beijing to release Liu and allow him the freedom to choose where he wants to be treated. The invitation of foreign experts also followed meetings between Chinese and Western officials, who have suggested at least American and German doctors be allowed to see Liu.
Liu, 61, an essayist and literary critic, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 on the charge of inciting subversion of state power, based on his writings, including the bold Charter 08 that he co-authored. That document and some of his prior writings called for political reforms that would end China's one-party rule. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while incarcerated.
China calls Liu a criminal who sought to overthrow the government and has denounced the awarding of the Nobel prize to him as an attack on its political and legal system.