Chinese doctors scramble to 'rescue' ailing Nobel laureate

A few days after the meeting, however, the authorities said they had approved the family's request to invite Western doctors to join Liu's medical team, composed of prominent Chinese oncologists, at a hospital in Shenyang in northeastern China. According to the hospital, Liu is suffering from "infectious shock" and "spontaneous peritonitis" as fluids and inflammation build up in his abdomen.

But the government has warned against interference in its internal affairs and has said Liu is getting the best care possible and is being treated by renowned Chinese cancer experts. On Monday the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked Beijing for a "signal of humanity for Liu Xiaobo and his family".

Liu was admitted to the hospital early last month after he was transferred from prison due to late-stage liver cancer.

Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison in December 2009 for "subversion" after calling for democratic reform.

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei says China's imprisonment of ailing Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo is "a shame for the Chinese government and a shame for the global community".

A German doctor visited Liu at a hospital on Saturday, along with an American colleague.

"We have asked that China grant these doctors unhindered access to Liu", Polley said, reiterating United States calls for China to grant Liu full parole.

Hu Jia, a dissident and friend of Liu's, said he was deeply saddened to hear the news of his worsening condition but vowed to do all he could to push for Liu's freedom.

Liu was diagnosed with cancer and is now in a critical condition, Chiu said.

The last time a political prisoner was granted medical parole and allowed to leave the country for treatment overseas was in 2005, when authorities released Rebiya Kadeer, a prominent businesswoman and activist for her Uighur ethnic minority group, according to the San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation, which has helped to arrange the release of a series of political prisoners in China. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a year later while in prison.

The doctors added that both their institutions have agreed and are prepared to accept Liu for cancer treatment.

In 2008 he was arrested for spearheading Charter 08, a pro-democracy manifesto that called for ending authoritarian rule in China.

If China were to release him, Jared Genser, a lawyer representing Liu internationally, said he was ready to evacuate him.

Mo Zhixu, a family friend, told Efe that as far as he knew, Liu and his entourage continued to seek to leave China. "From learning of the approval for the Lius to travel, we could have the medevac there in 48 hours".

After the doctors' Sunday statement, China released short videos of their visit, apparently taken without their knowledge, in which the German doctor appeared to praise the care Liu had received.

The German statement also said the country's security services were steering Liu's treatment rather than the doctors.

  • Joey Payne