China has invited medical experts from Germany and the United States to help treat jailed Nobel prize winner Liu Xiaobo for cancer, a local government has announced, in a softening of its stance ahead of this weekend’s G20 summit in Germany.
Liu was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” after he helped write a petition known as “Charter 08” calling for sweeping political reforms.
He was recently moved from jail to a hospital to be treated for late-stage liver cancer.
The move comes ahead of President Xi Jinping’s attendance at a summit of the Group of 20 nations in the German city of Hamburg on Friday and Saturday, a high-profile event where Xi will seek to project Chinese leadership on issues such as climate change and free trade.
Diplomatic sources in Beijing say China has been nervous that the issue over the Nobel Peace Prize winner could overshadow Xi’s appearance.
An open letter issued by a coalition of rights groups, including those representing Tibetans and Uighurs, on Wednesday urged G20 leaders to press China for the unconditional release of Liu and grant him freedom to travel wherever he wants.
“Liu Xiaobo’s 2010 Nobel Peace Prize illuminated the human and political rights of the people under China’s rule, and created a real sense of hope. We urge you not to let that sense of hope fade,” it said.
The government has said Liu is being given the best care possible and that he is being treated by renowned Chinese cancer experts.
However, a growing number of Western politicians and international rights activists have expressed concern about the quality of Liu’s treatment and have said he should be given the choice to leave China if that was the best option.