Liu Xia, widow of late Nobel peace laureate and political prisoner Liu Xiaobo, is at risk of a potential attempt on her own life, a close friend and fellow activist has said.
Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia said the accumulated stress of being under continual house arrest and surveillance by state security police has left Liu in a state of long-term depression.
Recent health problems may have exacerbated her low mood, Hu said.
"During the past few months, she has had surgery to remove uterine fibroids," he said. "I'm sure you can imagine the effect of long-term incarceration at home for more than two years, plus the loss of both parents and a loving husband must have had on her."
"If Liu Xia were to seek to end this state of affairs through suicide, I wouldn't be at all surprised."
Hu said he previously limited opportunity to visit or talk with Liu while Liu Xiaobo was still alive.
"Back then, when I would go to see her, all her words were words of despair and emotional collapse," he said. "She has been dependent on medication for a long time now; that is the only way they can stabilize her mood."
Hu said the best solution for Liu, who has never been charged with any crime, would be for her to be allowed to seek medical treatment overseas.
"The only way she will be able to escape the curse she is living under is if she is able to leave the country and go to Germany or the U.S.," Hu said. "I have been in touch with the relevant diplomats lately, and they all say they have been in talks with the state security apparatus since August, September on this very subject."
"This is the only way out of misery left for Liu Xia now," he said.
Reports have also emerged on overseas social media accounts that Liu's depression is "extremely severe" now.
A Chinese journalist who asked to remain anonymous told RFA on Saturday that Liu is basically confined to an apartment, where she reads books previously bought by Liu Xiaobo, alone.
"She is in the midst of huge emotional pain," the journalist said. "When she was forced to leave Beijing [during the 19th party congress in October], Liu Xia said that she felt like she was being shoved around like a parcel."
Earlier this month, dozens of writers and artists have called on Chinese president Xi Jinping to end all restrictions and surveillance imposed on Liu Xia, who was last seen in photographs on July 15 at the sea burial of her husband's ashes, but has been incommunicado since then, with a security guard hanging around her Beijing home.
Rights groups say Liu Xia remains in a state of de facto incommunicado detention, cut off from the outside world and barred from making her own free decisions about where to go, or whom to associate with.
Liu Xiaobo died weeks after being diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer, and repeated requests from his family to seek medical treatment overseas were ignored.
Police have since detained a number of activists who staged memorials in Liu's honor, and his name is still a banned search term on China's tightly controlled internet.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.