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China Releases Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo From Prison After Cancer Diagnosis

Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, whose image is seen here during a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong last year, has been granted medical parole.
Dale De La Rey
AFP/Getty Images
Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, whose image is seen here during a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong last year, has been granted medical parole.

Chinese authorities have granted dissident Liu Xiaobo medical parole, freeing the Nobel Peace Prize winner from prison because he has terminal liver cancer. Liu, 61, is being allowed to seek treatment in a hospital outside of prison.

"According to his lawyer, Liu was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer while in prison last month," NPR's Rob Schmitz reports from Hong Kong. "[He] is being treated at a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang."

Liu is more than halfway through the 11-year sentence he received in 2009 for what the government called "incitement to subvert state power." His main infraction was helping to write a six-page manifesto titled Charter 08, which called for an end to one-party rule in China along with direct elections and the separation of powers. The document states, for instance, "Public institutions should be used for the public."

A veteran activist and academic, Liu traveled from the U.S. to participate in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 — and in 2010, when he won the Nobel Peace Prize, he dedicated the award to those who died in the protests.

At the Nobel Prize ceremony in Oslo that year, Liu was represented by a chair onstage that sat empty.

Liu's wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest since the weekend he won the Nobel Prize, confined to her apartment in Beijing immediately after her return from visiting her husband in prison to discuss the honor. She's been largely isolated since then, with the government tightly controlling her interactions with friends.

In a statement about Liu's medical parole, Amnesty International says, "It adds insult to injury that Liu Xiaobo, who should never have been put in prison in the first place, has been diagnosed with a grave illness."

The aid group calls for the government to ensure Liu has proper medical care, access to his family — and that he and other rights activists are released.

Amnesty adds, "The authorities must also stop their shameful and illegal house arrest of Liu Xiaobo's wife, Liu Xia, and ensure that she is able to receive visitors, travel freely and reunite with Liu Xiaobo."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.

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