Minitrue: No Reports on Liu Xiaobo’s Medical Parole

The following instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.

All websites: do not report, comment, or repost on ’s medical parole or related matters. (June 28) [Chinese]

Chinese authorities confirmed on Monday that laureate Liu Xiaobo is in hospital undergoing treatment for late-stage liver cancer. The San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation cautioned that "it is not correct to say that the prisoner granted medical parole is ‘free,’ nor is it correct to say that the prisoner has been ‘released,’" as some reports have done.

Liu and his wife Liu Xia have nevertheless expressed hope that they will both be able to leave China to seek treatment for him, according to a statement posted by writer Liao Yiwu together with a photograph of a note handwritten by in April. David Cowhig translated both on his blog:

Many journalists have been contacting me to ask if Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia really want to go abroad for and how they can confirm it. I keep saying it over and over but explaining it over and over has been wearing me out. Currently Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia are under strict police control. I feel compelled to release this handwritten note from Liu Xia. I also have another handwritten note from Liu Xia addressed to the Chinese Public Security Bureau National Security Detachment asking for permission to leave China. For now, I will not be releasing that letter. Journalists and everybody please believe this: their very pressing desire is to leave China to get . Liu Xiaobo says it is absolutely true that if he is to die, he would rather die in the West! [Source]

The New York Times’ Steven Lee Myers, however, reports that Liu will not be allowed to leave China:

The authorities did not explain the rejection, according to [Liu’s] lawyer, Shang Baojun. The news undermined hopes among supporters of Mr. Liu, a writer and dissident, that he might be freed altogether, if not allowed to leave China. He remains under police guard in a hospital.

[…] Dozens of prominent writers have appealed directly to China’s president, Xi Jinping, to grant Mr. Liu unrestricted medical care, including the opportunity to leave the country if he chooses. The appeal, organized by PEN America, also urged the authorities to free Mr. Liu’s wife, the poet Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since 2010 even though she has never been charged with a crime. Ms. Liu has appealed for her husband to be allowed to seek treatment abroad.

“We applaud your decision to grant him medical parole, and hope that it will be accompanied with due regard for the steps necessary to ensure that, however much time he may have, he is afforded the dignity and autonomy that every human being deserves,” read the letter, which was signed by about 50 authors, including Martin Amis, Margaret Atwood, J. M. Coetzee, Philip Roth and Salman Rushdie.

Freedom Now, an advocacy organization in Washington, released a similar appeal, signed by 154 Nobel laureates in each of the prize’s disciplines. [Source]

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Norwegian Nobel Committee, and Tiananmen student leaders Wang Dan and Wu’er Kaixi had already issued statements of support, calling for Liu to be allowed to choose how and where he would be treated. Similar statements have come from the French government, the Dalai Lama, and the U.S. embassy, Congressional-Executive Commission on China, and incoming ambassador Terry Branstad. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in response to the embassy’s comments that "no country has the right to interfere and make irresponsible remarks on Chinese internal affairs," and later warned Branstad that his duty is "to enable and enhance mutual trust and friendship between the two countries." These exchanges were reported by foreign media, but both were omitted from the ministry’s official press conference transcripts. Xi Jinping also ignored a reporter’s question about Liu upon his arrival in Hong Kong on Thursday.

Amid these expressions of support, several commentators have noted the extent to which global attention had previously drifted away from Liu, reflecting a broader pattern of waning international pressure on China over human rights. One recent illustration of this was the E.U.’s failure to deliver a planned condemnation of Chinese rights violations last week. This week, British minister Mark Field declined to mention Liu’s case in an upbeat statement on a two-day Sino-U.K. human rights dialogue, adding fresh accusations of appeasement to several others in recent years.

News of Liu’s illness also sparked a series of protests in Hong Kong, and a petition signed by over 500 Chinese intellectuals and activists demanding Liu’s freedom of movement, communication, and choice of treatment. The petition also urges transparency over his medical records, "so that those who are responsible for a delay in offering him timely medical treatment will be held accountable." Some suspect that this delay was intentional: activist Hu Jia has labeled Liu’s fate a "political murder," while deposed premier Zhao Ziyang’s former aide said that "some people have been talking about deliberate homicide, and I think that is a very frank way of putting it." Bao was reportedly then visited by police and warned not to comment further. In an apparent effort to counter such accusations, video has emerged of Liu exercising, receiving treatment, and meeting with his wife: see more details from Reuters.

In addition to the prohibition on domestic reporting, authorities have cut transmissions on Liu’s case by foreign broadcasters:

An editorial in The Guardian summed up Liu’s current situation:

China’s Nobel peace laureate is no longer behind bars; but nor is he in any sense free. Liu Xiaobo’s lawyer, who has been unable to speak to him directly, says police are posted inside his room as he lies in hospital, terminally ill with liver cancer. Friends have been unable to visit him there. He is at least allowed to see his wife, Liu Xia. But her contact with friends is extremely limited too. In a brief but devastating recording of a video call, shared by one of their friends, she weeps as she says her husband cannot be given surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, presumably because the cancer is so advanced. It appears that the couple want to return to their home in Beijing or go abroad. The authorities call this medical parole, but an eminent scholar of Chinese law calls it “non-release ‘release’” – transfer into another form of coercive control. [Source]

That quote came from NYU’s Jerome Cohen, who commented on his blog on Tuesday:

Given the increasingly frequent Chinese police practice of what I call “non-release ‘release’”, which usually means formal release from prison into another form of coercive confinement, one wonders how much freedom Liu will have to give us his final thoughts. The facts that it took a month for the news of his hospitalization to leak out and that he is confined in a Liaoning hospital rather than in Beijing suggest that he is far from a free man. Indeed his physical condition, as well as the conditions of confinement, may prevent access to the international and national media.

[…] Liu’s fate is a sad reminder of two things: oppression in China did not begin with Xi Jinping, and things have become even worse under Xi. [Source]

AFP’s Allison Jackson and Joanna Chiu wrote this week that "Liu’s treatment offered little hope to lower-profile activists still in detention," such as rights lawyers held since the 2015 Black Friday crackdown.

"The international community can see that China has no human rights when even winners have been treated like this," Beijing-based lawyer Yu Wensheng said, adding that when Liu dies it will be "a heavy blow" for China’s human rights movement.

China has long been criticised for its harsh treatment of activists and dissidents but since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012 the controls on civil society have tightened.

Campaigners say it is impossible to know the exact number of lawyers and activists in detention because many are held incommunicado with no access to legal advice or their families.

[…] In an annual report in March, Chief Justice Zhou Qiang cited the harsh punishments imposed on rights defenders as the legal system’s top accomplishment last year. [Source]

真Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011.