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Fears for jailed Nobel Peace laureate as medics suspend cancer treatment


Liu Xiaobo at home in Beijing, China, in 2008 (AP Video via AP)

Liu Xiaobo at home in Beijing, China, in 2008 (AP Video via AP)

Liu Xiaobo at home in Beijing, China, in 2008 (AP Video via AP)

Doctors treating imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo have stopped using cancer-fighting drugs so as not to overwhelm his severely weakened liver, raising concerns that China's most prominent political prisoner is critically ill.

The team decided to stop use of an inhibitor drug for advanced liver cancer in light of Mr Liu's rapidly deteriorating liver functions, according to a statement on the website of the First Hospital of China Medical University.

It said a traditional Chinese anti-tumour treatment was also suspended while low-molecular heparin had been added to treat venous thrombosis developing in Mr Liu's left leg.

The latest statement appears to be part of an effort by Beijing to show it is providing him with the best possible care, amid questions about his prison conditions and international calls for him to be freed to seek treatment abroad.

Zeng Jinyan, a close family friend in contact with Mr Liu's brother-in-law Liu Hui, said the inhibitor drug, Sorafenib, had failed to work.

"He is yet to see any improvement after two to three weeks, but its side effects are causing his liver functions to badly deteriorate with severe accumulation of abdominal fluid," Ms Zeng wrote in a statement posted online.

"So the drug must be suspended, and the focus has shifted to preserve his liver and to give his body a chance to breathe."

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Mr Liu was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer in May while serving an 11-year sentence for inciting subversion by advocating sweeping political reforms that would end China's one-party rule.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, the year after he was convicted and jailed by a Chinese court.

In the years since, China has ignored international calls to free him while isolating him to the degree that he has been unable to convey any message to the outside world.

His wife, Liu Xia, has been under strict house arrest in Beijing despite never being accused of any crime.

Even after he was transferred to hospital in the north-eastern city of Shenyang under a medical parole, Mr Liu, his wife and family members were largely prevented from communicating with the outside.

In her statement, Ms Zeng repeated the call that Mr Liu should be freed and allowed to seek treatment overseas. Before then, his doctors should be able to speak freely about his medical treatment, and he should be transferred to a top international hospital in China, she wrote.

Although the Chinese government has so far showed no sign that it would free Mr Liu or allow him to travel overseas, it has acceded to family requests to allow liver cancer experts from Germany, the US and elsewhere to join the Chinese medical team.


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