Chinese dissident Liu dies aged 61, with family by his side

SHENYANG, China - The family of China's Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo was by his side when he died on Thursday after his condition abruptly deteriorated days earlier, his doctors said.

Liu was "primarily saying goodbye to his wife" and telling her to "live well" in his last moments, doctor Teng Yue'e told a news conference hours after the democracy advocate died.

Liu, who died aged 61, was transferred from prison to First Hospital of China Medical University in the northeastern city of Shenyang after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer in late May.

US and German cancer experts visited Liu last weekend and issued a statement on Sunday saying he was still strong enough to fulfil his wish to be treated abroad, contradicting their Chinese counterparts.

But Liu Yunpeng, the hospital's head of internal medicine, said that Liu's condition deteriorated shortly after the foreign doctors asked for an assessment on whether he could travel.

"In just the 20-minute period of the examination, his condition drastically changed for the worse. At the time our collective assessment was that it would be very difficult for him to be moved for a long distance or period. The danger was extremely great," Liu Yunpeng said.

China's government rejected international calls to fulfil Liu's request to receive treatment abroad, while human rights groups slammed the continued detention of the peaceful democracy activist.

Liu Yunpeng said a patient is not obligated to get treatment from them and "you can go to where you desire to receive treatment".

But when asked whether other people prevented Liu from leaving, he said: "This is not a medical question. I'm not so clear on these other matters." Liu's wife, the poet and artist Liu Xia, and his other relatives could not be reached Thursday evening.

Liu Xia was placed under house arrest after her husband won the Nobel in 2010, and her contact with the outside world remained highly restricted through his hospitalisation.