Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu have detained an environmental activist who led an anti-pollution campaign against local chemical plants on charges of "endangering state security," according to a family member.
Ji Shulong was originally detained on suspicion of gambling, but later had the charges amended to "obstructing official duty" and "stirring up trouble and picking quarrels" and was being held at the Zhuining county police station following a petitioning trip to Beijing, her nephew said.
He said the authorities had since upgraded the charges to endangering state security.
"My aunt has been detained again," Ji Jianjun told RFA's Cantonese service. "Section chief Shen from the police said that she joined an overseas democracy movement, and that she is being charged with endangering state security."
"We're not allowed to visit her."
He said Ji had never been a member of any overseas group.
"I never even heard her talk of such a thing," he said. "The police are just making stuff up, trumped up charges against my aunt."
He said Ji had been detained for more than a month now, following several years of complaints against the county government for building chemical plants in the county.
He added that the family were concerned for her health.
"My aunt has heart problems, and she called me from Beijing to say that she had frequent chest pains."
"I asked the police section chief about this on Tuesday, but he said she was fine. I'm sure he was lying."
Ji Jianjun said the family feared that Ji had been tortured or beaten up while in detention, and that this was why she was being denied visits.
"They won't even let us take heart medication to her, and she hasn't any with her," he said.
Zhuining county Party secretary Wang Jinsheng hung up the phone when contacted by an RFA reporter on Wednesday.
Repeated calls to the cell phone of Zhuining county police department section chief Shen Enshan also went unanswered on Wednesday.
Chinese citizens are becoming increasingly active in support of environmental issues in recent years, putting pressure on governments to implement the country's comprehensive environmental protection laws.
Activists say, however, that environmental officials lack the power to impose the legislation on powerful vested interests at the local level.
In July, authorities in the southwestern province of Sichuan promised to permanently scrap a high-profile copper-processing plant after two days of violent protests from local residents.
Reported by Fung Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.