Share story

BEIJING (AP) — A friend of imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo doubts the government’s claims that the ailing dissident is too sick to leave the country, in part because of a video in which Liu is described as being in “acceptable” condition.

Whether Liu is able to travel is a key question in any negotiations for his possible release from a Chinese hospital. The U.S. and European Union have been calling on Beijing to allow China’s most famous political prisoner to choose where he wants to be treated for late-stage liver cancer.

Shang Baojun, Liu’s former lawyer, has said Chinese officials have told Liu’s family members that his health was too poor to allow him to travel.

However, Liu’s friend, political dissident Hu Jia, said Monday a video that emerged on YouTube over the weekend appeared to indicate that Liu was in stable condition. Medical experts were seen saying that Liu’s treatment plan was going smoothly.

“Currently, his situation is acceptable,” an unidentified male doctor in a white coat was seen saying in the video, which did not include any images of Liu and was dated Wednesday.

A separate photo that’s been circulating online showed Liu holding a bowl and being spoon-fed by his wife, Liu Xia. He did not appear to be hooked up to life-support.

“Based on the videos and the photo, we know for sure that his conditions have not deteriorated,” Hu said. “There’s no question that Liu Xiaobo can travel.”

William Fingleton, spokesman for the European Union delegation in China, said EU diplomats met with a Chinese vice minister of justice on Friday regarding Liu’s treatment. Fingleton did not provide details on the discussion.

In a statement released later Friday, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, urged China to immediately grant Liu parole on humanitarian grounds, citing Liu’s deteriorating health.

Mogherini also said that China should “allow him to receive medical assistance at a place of his choosing in China or overseas,” and that Liu and his wife should be free to communicate with the outside world.

On past occasions, China has released political prisoners on grounds of ill health and immediately sent them into exile abroad.

Reliable, independent information on Liu’s condition and his desire to travel has been difficult to obtain, since Liu and Liu Xia have long been isolated by the authorities out of the reach of most friends and the media. While the couple has not publicly stated their willingness to go abroad, their friends believe they wish to do so, based on Liu Xia’s earlier indications.

China’s foreign ministry said Monday that it has no information on Liu’s case. “I can only say that we hope that the relevant countries can respect China’s judicial sovereignty instead of making use of this individual case to interfere in China’s domestic affairs,” spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular news briefing.

China’s justice department did not immediately respond to faxed questions about Liu’s case. On Monday, the judicial bureau in Shenyang, the northeastern city where Liu is undergoing treatment, posted a statement that said Liu is receiving “meticulous care” from well-known Chinese doctors for liver cancer that has metastasized to his entire body.

“With consent from family members, the hospital has conducted treatments aimed at fighting the tumor, protecting the liver, regulating the immune system, providing nutrition, and alleviating pain,” the statement said. “It also has applied a targeted drug that is most advanced, most proven, and unanimously recommended by both domestic and international guidelines.”

Liu, a writer and outspoken government critic, was sentenced in 2009 to 11 years in prison on a charge of inciting subversion of state power, a year after he co-authored Charter ’08, a document calling for democracy and rule of law in China. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while incarcerated.