China Rebuffs Calls for Nobel Laureate to Get Cancer Care Abroad

BEIJING — The Chinese government denounced as meddling calls for Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace laureate imprisoned for subversion, to be freed from a guarded hospital ward so that he could go abroad for cancer treatment.

The comments from a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Geng Shuang, on Monday seemed to offer little hope that Mr. Liu would be allowed to leave the country, as he has requested.

Mr. Geng stopped short of explicitly rejecting the idea. But his words were far from a cordial official reaction to the American and German medical experts who had examined Mr. Liu, at the invitation of the Chinese government, and then said that he was well enough to leave China.

“We’ve answered many times that China is a country of rule by law, and everyone is equal before the law,” Mr. Geng said at a regular news briefing in Beijing, when asked about Mr. Liu’s request and the two foreign doctors’ comments. “We hope that the countries concerned will respect China’s judicial sovereignty and don’t exploit so-called cases to meddle in China’s internal affairs.”

Asked repeatedly about Mr. Liu’s request, Mr. Geng repeated that vague formula and denied that there were precedents that would apply to Mr. Liu, although some other Chinese prisoners convicted on political charges have been given medical parole so they could seek treatment abroad.

“There have never been so-called precedents,” Mr. Geng said when asked about those examples. But when asked whether that position amounted to a “no” to Mr. Liu, Mr. Geng did not give a direct answer.

The latest Chinese comments have laid bare a rift that has grown since the prison authorities revealed late last month that Mr. Liu had advanced liver cancer and had been given medical parole. Mr. Liu is China’s most famous political prisoner, and now what is likely to be his short time still alive has become a source of contention with human rights advocates and Western governments.

Mr. Liu, 61, was sentenced late in 2009 to 11 years in prison on charges of inciting subversion, a year after he was detained on the cusp of issuing a bold democratic petition called Charter 08. In 2010, he received the Nobel Peace Prize, infuriating the Chinese government.

He has been receiving treatment in a hospital in Shenyang, a city 390 miles northeast of Beijing, guarded by the police. He and his wife, Liu Xia, have not spoken publicly or received well-wishers outside their immediate family.

But a lawyer for Mr. Liu and friends of the couple have said the couple wanted Mr. Liu to go abroad for treatment, apparently out of distrust of Chinese hospitals and to give Mr. Liu some freedom in his final days.

Their efforts received a boost over the weekend after two cancer specialists, one American and one German, examined Mr. Liu on Saturday and said he was well enough to travel.

Dr. Joseph M. Herman of the MD Anderson Cancer Center of the University of Texas and Dr. Markus Büchler of the University of Heidelberg were invited by the Chinese government to examine Mr. Liu. But they apparently departed from the government’s official script that Mr. Liu was not stable enough to travel.

“While a degree of risk always exists in the movement of any patient, both physicians believe Mr. Liu can be safely transported with appropriate medical evacuation care and support,” the two doctors said in a joint statement on Sunday. “However, the medical evacuation would have to take place as quickly as possible.”

China has given political prisoners medical parole to go abroad, although there seem to have been virtually no instances in the past decade.

John Kamm, the founder of the Dui Hua Foundation, an organization in San Francisco that has worked to free Chinese prisoners, said he could recall roughly a dozen such cases in all. The last one was Rebiya Kadeer, an imprisoned advocate for the Uighur minority who was released on medical parole in 2005.

The Chinese government, however, told Mr. Liu’s lawyer, Shang Baojun, in late June that Mr. Liu was not fit to travel. Chinese Foreign and Justice Ministry officials had also rejected suggestions that Mr. Liu could go abroad.

The Chinese government’s position on Mr. Liu appeared sure to anger Chinese human rights activists and international rights organizations that have called for him to be freed to choose his own treatment. And the issue has strained Beijing’s ties with the United States and the European Union.

For the past decade and more, Washington, Brussels and other Western capitals have become less vocal in pressing human rights cases with Beijing, and Beijing has become brusquely impatient with criticism of its harsh limits on expression and dissent. But the United States and European governments have spoken out for Mr. Liu in recent weeks.

The European Union urged China in late June to allow “him to receive medical assistance at a place of his choosing in China or overseas.” The American State Department said Mr. Liu should have “freedom of movement and access to medical care of his choosing.”

“We continue to ask that China immediately grant Mr. Liu parole on humanitarian grounds and allow him to receive medical assistance at a place of his choosing in China or overseas,” the European Union Delegation in Beijing said on Monday in an emailed statement.

Earlier, Global Times, a Chinese tabloid that often bluntly defends Beijing’s policies, said Ms. Kadeer, the prisoner who left China in 2005, showed why it would be dangerous to allow Mr. Liu to leave. She had plunged into political activism after leaving, an editorial in the English-language edition of the paper said in late June.

“If Liu is allowed to go abroad for medical treatment, as a ‘Nobel Laureate,’ he could motivate more Western public opinion attacks against China,” it said. But even that strident paper did not entirely close the door. It said: “It needs to be stressed that whether Liu is allowed to seek medical treatment abroad is within China’s own jurisdiction.”

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