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China invites foreign experts to treat jailed Nobel Peace laureate

China has agreed to allow liver cancer experts from the US, Germany and other countries to join a medical team treating jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo following international criticism of Beijing's handling of his case.

The judicial bureau in the north-eastern city where Liu is being treated said on Wednesday that his doctors had agreed to a request by his family for foreign experts to be consulted.

Liu, China's best-known political prisoner, is being treated at a hospital in Shenyang for late-stage liver cancer which was diagnosed in late May.

The bureau said the invited medics were "the most authoritative liver cancer treatment experts", but gave no other details.

Following initial questions over how Liu had become so sick without having been previously diagnosed, authorities said they had assembled a team of eight Chinese specialists to oversee his treatment and have released statements testifying to the care he is receiving.

Yet friends have raised concerns that Liu, his wife and other relatives have not been able to freely communicate with the outside and that their messages have been tightly controlled by authorities, who say Liu's family has been satisfied with the course of treatment.

"Having foreign experts on the medical team is no replacement for Liu Xiaobo and his family to freely choose how and where he should be treated," Liu's friend, scholar Wen Kejian, said on Wednesday. "We have not been able to speak to family members, who are under pressure not to speak to us."

Wen said he believes Liu and his family want to seek medical treatment overseas and that it is important for Liu to be allowed to communicate with his friends for the sake of his emotional health as he battles the liver cancer that has metastasised to his entire body.

Together with another friend, Mo Zhixu, Wen tried to visit Liu at the First Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang where the authorities said he is being treated. They made inquiries at likely floors, but were turned away when nurses said they were not aware of a patient by the name of Liu Xiaobo.

Western governments have been urging Beijing to release Liu and allow him the freedom to choose where he wants to be treated. The invitation of foreign experts also followed meetings between Chinese and Western officials, who suggested at least American and German doctors be allowed to see Liu.

Liu, 61, an essayist and literary critic, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 on the charge of inciting subversion of state power, based on his writings, including the bold Charter 08 that he co-authored. That document and some of his prior writings called for political reforms that would end China's one-party rule. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while incarcerated.

China calls Liu a criminal who sought to overthrow the government and has denounced the awarding of the Nobel prize to him as an attack on its political and legal system.

In a statement on Wednesday, Amnesty International reiterated calls for him and his wife, Liu Xia, to be allowed to travel overseas.

"It is not too late for the authorities to end this cruel farce," the group said, adding that the invitation to foreign experts appeared to be "in part an attempt to limit international criticism".

AP

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