Hospital says Chinese dissident Liu’s cancer in final stages

FILE PHOTO: A protester holds a candle next to a portrait of Chinese Nobel rights activist Liu Xiaobo demanding his release, during Chinese President Xi Jinping visiting, ahead of 20th anniversary of the city's handover from British to Chinese rule, in Hon

By Ben Blanchard and Natalie Thomas

BEIJING (Reuters) – The Chinese hospital treating Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo said on Saturday his cancer was in the final stages and while a German and a U.S. doctor who visited his bedside had approved of his treatment they had asked for him to be moved abroad.

Liu, 61, was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” after he helped write a petition known as “Charter 08” calling for sweeping political reforms.

He was recently moved from jail to a hospital in China’s northeastern city of Shenyang to be treated for late-stage liver cancer and the hospital said it had invited doctors from the United States and Germany to help with Liu’s treatment.

In a short statement, the hospital said Joseph M. Herman of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Markus W Büchler of Germany’s University of Heidelberg had seen Liu on Saturday with the Chinese experts treating him.

The team listened to his medical history, heard a report on his treatment, visited Liu and met his relatives and then discussed his illness, the hospital said.

“The U.S. and German experts fully approved of the treatment by the national experts group and what they had done,” it said.

The hospital said Liu had late-stage liver cancer which had spread and was in its final stages, adding that it was looking at the medical options to improve his chances of survival.

Calls have grown from rights groups, international bodies and western governments for China to allow Liu to travel with his wife Liu Xia to be treated overseas.

A source with knowledge of the consultation and friend of the family told Reuters that Liu was compos mentis and spoke to the U.S. and German doctors in English.

“He told them he still hoped to go abroad for treatment, but the government has been very clear they won’t allow this,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Asked how serious Liu’s condition is at present and how long he might have to live, the source said: “It’s very serious. I’m extremely worried”.

The hospital’s website posted four pictures of the consultation with the U.S. and German doctors, one of which showed both men bending over to talk to Liu as he lay in his sick bed. He gestured back to them with his left hand.

A separate hospital statement cited both doctors as saying they hoped Liu could be treated abroad. A Chinese doctor, who it did not identify, responded that moving him would not be safe and asked what better treatment could be offered.

“The U.S. and German experts answered: ‘We also do not have a better way, you are already doing very well’,” the statement said.

In an emailed statement on behalf of Herman, the MD Anderson Cancer Center confirmed he was in Shenyang to participate in the consultations on a visit facilitated by the U.S. State Department. It gave no details on Liu’s condition.

Büchler did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

The hospital did not answer telephone calls seeking comment on Saturday evening.

(Editing by Janet Lawrence and Greg Mahlich)