SHENYANG, China (AP) — Friends of China’s ailing and imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo have made their way to his hospital at the risk of being detained by the authorities, saying they want to show their support in what could be his final moments.
Documentary filmmaker Zeng Jinyan told The Associated Press she and a fellow supporter drove eight hours from Beijing to the northeastern city of Shenyang where the critically ill political prisoner is being treated at a hospital under close guard.
The First Hospital of China Medical University treating Liu for advanced liver cancer said Wednesday his condition is life-threatening. It provided no updates on Liu’s condition on its website Thursday despite having done so on a daily basis for the past several days.
Liu’s declining health has become the subject of international attention, with supporters and several foreign governments calling for him to be freed on humanitarian grounds.
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Despite the drive of more than 200 kilometers (120 miles), Zeng said she was unable to see Liu or his wife, Liu Xia, or other family members, who have been unreachable in recent days.
“By coming to Shenyang from Beijing, we’re just trying to get closer to Xiaobo and Liu Xia, trying to be with him as he goes through this rough time,” Zeng said in an interview in a nearby hotel room.
Earlier Thursday, many plainclothes security agents could be seen stationed at the hospital’s entrance and inside the crowded facility.
Chinese authorities have largely squelched any attempts to publicly voice support for Liu. Other activists reported online that some half-dozen supporters who had traveled to Shenyang were no longer contactable. The reports could not immediately be confirmed.
Liu, who has advanced liver cancer, is suffering from respiratory and renal failure as well as septic shock, the hospital said Wednesday.
Liu was convicted in 2009 of inciting subversion for his role in the “Charter 08” movement calling for political reform and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a year later while serving his sentence.
Liu, a former professor, had helped negotiate with the military for the safe passage of students during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest.
Wu Qiang, a supporter of Liu who had traveled to Shenyang with Zeng, the documentary filmmaker, said he admired Liu’s resolve to bring about political change despite numerous setbacks.
“Liu Xiaobo took part in the 1989 movement, but even after that movement failed, he did not give up on politics, he did not give up on his own political responsibility,” Wu said in Shenyang.
“Since 1989, he has never ceased in the politics of struggle in China. Even in these past days in Shenyang, he is using the last of his life to continue this struggle,” Wu said.
Wong reported from Beijing.