Around 300 Hongkongers gathered in Central on Thursday evening at a candlelight vigil in support of jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Liu is terminally ill with liver cancer.
The prison bureau of China’s Liaoning province announced that Liu was granted medical parole on Monday. The announcement generated an uproar in the international community, but President Xi Jinping did not answer reporters’ questions on Liu’s status as he arrived for a visit to Hong Kong on Thursday afternoon.
The vigil at Statue Square was organised by the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, best known for helping dissidents escape mainland China following the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre.
“Today Xi Jinping is in Hong Kong… but he cannot hear our voices, he can’t hear the calls to release Liu Xiaobo,” an Alliance spokesperson told the crowd.
“If Xi didn’t create such a huge security blanket around him, we would have liked to present our demands to him,” retired teacher Li Lai-ha, 60, told HKFP.
According to a letter publicised by a friend and fellow dissident on Wednesday, Liu and his wife wish to leave China for him to receive medical treatment. But on the same night, a video was circulated online on showing footage of Liu in prison.
He was recorded saying that the staff treated him well.
Geoffrey Cheng, 28, attended on Thursday. He told HKFP that he saw parallels between China’s release of Liu and North Korea’s release of American student Otto Warmbier earlier this month.
Arrested last January, Warmbier was released whilst in a coma, and died a week later.
“The situation is similar,” said Cheng. “It’s like they held him until he was sick beyond cure before releasing him.”
“This in itself constitutes inhumane treatment. Even a legitimate prisoner who killed people and set things on fire should not be treated like this.”
Retired teacher added that the mainland authorities may have underestimated how Hongkongers would be outraged by the news of Liu’s illness.
During the vigil, the Alliance broadcast an i-Cable news clip showing the heavily-secured Shenyang hospital in which Liu is being treated. The group questioned whether authorities had refused the dissident regular medical checkups or treatment, given that rumours surfaced as early as 2010 that he had an “inflammation of the liver.”
26 political parties, trade unions and religious organisations signed the Alliance’s petition calling for Liu’s unconditional release. They also demanded the revocation of the law against subversion of state power, under which Liu was handed his 11-year sentence.