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Human rights in China

Hong Kong people stage rally calling on Beijing to fully free Nobel laureate

More than a hundred gather in Central for candlelight vigil urging Chinese authorities to allow Liu Xiaobo to travel overseas for medical treatment

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 11:22pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 11:25pm

More than 100 people joined a candlelight vigil in downtown Hong Kong on Thursday, calling for the full release of ailing Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, on the first night of President Xi Jinping’s visit for the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover.

Liu, 61, was granted medical parole about a month ago after he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. He is being treated in a hospital in Shenyang in northeast China’s Liaoning province, by a team of top doctors, according to authorities.

The event organiser said about 400 people attended the vigil outside the Court of Final Appeal. They urged Xi to immediately free Liu so he could receive the best medical treatment, and called for the release of his wife, Liu Xia, who has been under effective house arrest since her husband won the peace prize in 2010.

They called on Beijing to reveal whether authorities had delayed in treating the activist once his condition became known.

Chow Hang-tung, vice-chairwoman of event organiser the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, said: “Since 2010, there have been rumours of Liu Xiaobo having hepatitis and seven years later, we suddenly hear of him having terminal liver cancer.

“The authorities either did not give him check-ups or treatments, or gave him treatments but hid his condition from the public, leading to him missing out on the best opportunity for treatment.”

Chow said the medical parole was not true freedom.

The vigil came amid mounting criticism worldwide over whether Beijing acted too late.

According to his friends, Liu’s family is communicating with foreign countries over possible help for the activist to go overseas for treatment.

The newly arrived US ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, said he would work with Beijing towards arranging such offers.

More than 150 Nobel laureates released an open letter calling for Liu and his wife to be allowed to travel to the United States for medical treatment.

“The Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has been diagnosed with liver cancer. His wife, Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest for almost seven years, is also ill. They have the wish to leave the country so they can receive medical care.

“Time is running out. We urge the Chinese government on humanitarian grounds to grant Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia’s wish to travel to the United States for medical treatment.”

The letter was copied to US President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Branstad.

Liu was taken away by police in 2008, and the following year sentenced to 11 years in Jinzhou Prison, in Liaoning, for subversion, after he co-authored a manifesto known as Charter 08, calling for political change.

Video surfaces apparently showing terminally ill Nobel Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo’s life in prison

He was represented by an empty chair at the awards ceremony in Oslo, Norway, and to this day has not collected the prize.

The vigil came a day after pro-democracy activists surrounded and climbed Golden Bauhinia statue – a handover gift from Beijing in 1997 – in Wan Chai.

The protesters draped a black banner from the top of the statue demanding the unconditional release of Liu and universal suffrage for Hong Kong.

A total of 26 people were arrested, including lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Demosisto’s secretary-general Joshua Wong Chi-fung.

Additional reporting by Mimi Lau