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BEIJING – A friend of imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo said Monday that he doubts the government's claims that the ailing dissident is too sick to leave the country in part because of a video in which Liu is described as being in "acceptable" condition.
Whether Liu is able to travel is a key question in negotiations for his possible release from a Chinese hospital. The U.S. and European Union have been calling on Beijing to allow China's most famous political prisoner, recently diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer, to choose where he wants to be treated.
Shang Baojun, Liu's former lawyer, has said Chinese officials have told Liu's family members that his health was so poor that he could not travel.
Liu's friend Hu Jia, a political dissident, said Monday a video that emerged on YouTube over the weekend appeared to indicate that Liu was in stable condition. Medical experts were seen saying that Liu's treatment plan was going smoothly.
"Currently, his situation is acceptable," an unidentified male doctor in a white coat was seen saying in the video, which did not include any images of Liu and was dated Wednesday.
A separate photo that's been circulating online showed Liu holding a bowl and being spoon-fed by his wife. Liu did not appear to be hooked up to life-support.
"Based on the videos and the photo, we know for sure that his conditions have not deteriorated," Hu said. "There's no question that Liu Xiaobo can travel."
William Fingleton, spokesman for the European Union delegation in China, said EU diplomats met with a Chinese vice minister of justice on Friday regarding Liu's treatment. Fingleton did not provide details on the discussion.
In a statement released later Friday, the EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, urged China to immediately grant Liu parole on humanitarian grounds, citing Liu's deteriorating health.
Mogherini also said that China should "allow him to receive medical assistance at a place of his choosing in China or overseas," and that Liu and his wife should be free to communicate with the outside world.
Reliable, independent information on Liu's condition and his desire to travel has been difficult to obtain, as Liu and his wife, Liu Xia, have long been isolated by the authorities, out of the reach of most friends and the media. While the couple have not publicly stated their willingness to go abroad, their friends believe they wish to do so, based on Liu Xia's earlier indications to her friends.
China's foreign ministry said Monday that it has no information on Liu's case. "I can only say that we hope that the relevant countries can respect China's judicial sovereignty instead of making use of this individual case to interfere in China's domestic affairs," spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular news briefing.
China's justice department did not immediately respond to faxed questions about Liu's case.
Liu, a writer and an outspoken government critic, was sentenced in 2009 to 11 years in prison on a charge of inciting subversion of state power, a year after he co-authored Charter '08, a document calling for democracy and rule of law in China. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while incarcerated.