Iron bars were installed on the windows of the ward where the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo was hospitalised. The hospital room in Shenyang was turned into a temporary custodial ward.
A video filmed by FactWire showed two figures present in Liu’s ward on the morning before his death, one of them believed to be the Liu’s wife Liu Xia.
On July 13, the Chinese dissident died of multiple organ failure at age 61 in the First Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang, northeastern China’s Liaoning Province. He was granted medical parole in June after being diagnosed with liver cancer, according to an announcement made by the Liaoning Prison Administrative Bureau on June 26.
The hospital did not announce Liu’s exact location during the medical treatment. In the course of Liu’s stay, a large number of security officers in uniform and police officers in plainclothes were deployed around, and within, the hospital. They stopped and searched reporters upon their arrival.
The floor plan of the 23rd floor includes a total of 34 wards, with nine wards each in the southern and northern wing. During an onsite investigation on June 28, FactWire reporters found a blue screen erected in the middle of the southern wing corridor, blocking the path to at least four wards. The blue screen is a hospital amenity.
Next to the screen were security officers and officers in plainclothes on guard, who would stop outsiders from getting in, their expressions grave. The other wards above or below the isolated wards on the other floors were either double or independent single rooms. Each ward has a window without bars facing south.
FactWire reporters began filming the 23rd floor from afar on July 12 in the afternoon, discovering iron bars installed at the windows in two wards at the furthest left of the southern wing, which was clearly different from the windows of other wards. Curtains were constantly drawn.
The lights of six wards on the 23rd floor were still on at 9pm, while the lights of the rest of the wards in building number 1 were mostly turned off. The lights of the ward at the furthest left were turned off at around midnight, while that of the rest of the five wards were successively switched off at around 2am.
The lights of the ward on the furthest left were suddenly switched on briefly at 4am the next day, on July 13. A person dressed in white clothing and believed to be a medical staffer appeared on the left side of the room, bent down for a moment, and left. The lights were subsequently switched off, the whole process lasting about ten seconds.
During that time, two people with their backs facing the window were seen to be leaning against a side of the bed, one of them sitting down while the other stood. The latter, who had a thin frame, little or no hair, and wore black clothing, was believed to be Liu Xia.
Liu Xia was dressed in all black, according to a video leaked out on July 10 and a video released by the Shenyang Justice Bureau on July 14, as well as photos of the ceremony before Liu’s cremation service released by the Shenyang Municipal Information Office on July 15.
FactWire could not continue filming after being stopped by security staff in the morning of July 13. At around 2pm, reporters revisited the 23rd floor and found at least 15 security officers on guard at the door of the oncology department. Atmosphere was tense, and even other patients and their family members had to go through some procedures before granted entry. At 6pm, rumours that Liu passed away leaked, and Liu’s body was allegedly sent away by funeral car. The Shenyang Justice Bureau announced Liu’s death at around 9:20pm that evening.
On the evening of July 13, the hospital held a press conference regarding Liu’s conditions. Director of the oncology department Liu Yupeng replied to reporters’ enquires as to whether Liu was kept at the hospital, saying that ‘Liu lived in a ward in the oncology department, on the 23rd floor of building number 1, which should be in the southern wing’.
Security was clearly more relaxed upon Liu’s death. Observing the wards in the southern wing from outside, the iron bars had been removed. Reporters then went onto the 23rd floor of building number 1 and found the blue screen removed, and another entrance leading to the two wards at the furthest left of the southern wing was visible at the end of the corridor.
Reporters then tried pushing the door open to enter into the two wards. However, a man with cropped hair on guard behind the door stated that ‘there are no patients’ and asked the reporters to leave. Five to six leather chairs were seen in the corridor outside the ward.
FactWire then visited the ear, nose and throat department on the 24th floor of building number 1, which has the same floor plan design as the 23rd floor. The ward at the furthest left side of the southern wing could place two beds at most, and was installed with a low cabinet and independent toilet. The interior design resembled Liu’s ward in earlier videos released.
The Liaoning Prison Administrative Bureau announced on June 26 that Liu was granted medical parole for being diagnosed with liver cancer. Yet, by turning Liu’s room into a temporary custodial ward, it implies that surveillance on the dissident never stopped.