The condition of jailed political prisoner Liu Xiaobo, who was recently moved to a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang with terminal liver cancer, was rapidly worsening on Friday, with sources reporting that the Nobel peace laureate is now too weak for a transfer to another hospital.
According to overseas writer Yu Jie, Liu is receiving treatment at the No. 1 Hospital of the Shenyang Medical University, under armed police guard and constant surveillance by state security police.
He said Liu is currently crying out in frequent pain, and asking for narcotics, and is suffering from a buildup of fluids in the abdominal cavity, one of the symptoms of terminal liver cancer.
Another source told RFA that Liu is on liquids only, and his family is "preparing themselves mentally" for his death.
On Thursday, Chinese officials told U.S., German and European Union diplomats that Liu is in too weak a state to be moved elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the ruling Chinese Communist Party's propaganda officials have issued a ban on any reporting of Liu's situation.
"Regarding Liu Xiaobo's medical parole, do not report it, do not comment on it, and do not retweet it," a June 30 directive posted online by the U.S.-based China Digital Times website said.
Anyone trying to visit Liu is subjected to a rigorous identity check, and only one relative is allowed to visit at any given time, Yu Jie said, citing his own anonymous source.
Yu said healthcare workers at the hospital have also been ordered not to speak to anyone about Liu's case, and are banned from carrying mobile phones into the ward where Liu is being treated, for fear that unauthorized photos or video footage will be leaked to the outside world.
The revelation by Liu's lawyer Shang Baojun that his liver cancer was already at an inoperable stage by the time of his medical parole has drawn strong criticism from the international community.
Activists under surveillance
Police in Beijing have meanwhile place a number of Liu's friends and fellow activists under close surveillance and house arrest in a bid to stop further information from getting out.
"It's hard to say how many people are affected ... but there are a few people I knew, including Shang Baojung, Xie Xiaoling, Gao Yu, Bao Tong, among others, who have received notifications from the state security police warning them not to write or otherwise comment publicly on Liu Xiaobo," a Beijing-based activist who asked to remain anonymous said on Friday.
"Xie Xiaoling is now under surveillance by state security police, or some kind of coercive measures," the activist said.
He said political journalist Gao Yu had received a visit from four state security police officers after she spoke out on Twitter about the treatment of Liu.
Xie confirmed the report on Friday. "They told me I had been too active lately and that they were setting up a surveillance post, but we didn't let them in the apartment," she said. "They wanted to confirm my identity ... and now there are two tall police officers standing guard outside the front door."
"Other people have 'disappeared,' while others have been called in for 'a chat'," she said.
Outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei said the Chinese government simply doesn't tolerate dissent.
"Liu Xiaobo is an academic, and he became a rather moderate advocate of reforms," Ai told RFA in a recent interview. "Actually, it makes no sense to put people like him in jail. There is no basis in law ... and it goes against China's own constitution."
"There are people calling for his release because he is a Nobel Prize winner or because he is sick, but ... he should never have been locked up in the first place," Ai said.
"There is no democracy in China ... [and] anyone who sticks their head above the parapet will immediately be obliterated in the cruelest possible way the regime," he said.
Open letter to Xi Jinping
The news of Liu's condition came as 154 Nobel Prize winners called in an open letter to Chinese president Xi Jinping to allow Liu and his wife Liu Xia to travel to the United States to seek medical treatment.
The call is being repeated in a motion before the U.S. House of Representatives.
But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Friday that the country's treatment of Liu is its own affair.
"The relevant issue is an internal affair of China's. I cannot see any need to discuss this with any other country," Lu told a regular news briefing in Beijing.
Unlike many high-profile dissidents before him, Liu didn't qualify for medical parole because he has never admitted to committing any crime, and friends say he is highly unlikely to have accepted any exile deals offered to him by the government.
A literary critic and former professor, Liu was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize "for his long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China" in a decision that infuriated Beijing, which says he has broken Chinese law. During the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Liu was represented by an empty chair.
Beijing cut off trade ties with Norway in the wake of the award, although the Norwegian government said it had nothing to do with the decision. Ties were only fully resumed last December.
Liu has been held since 2008 after helping to draft Charter 08, a manifesto calling for sweeping changes in China's government that was signed by thousands of supporters.
Reported by Qiao Long and Zhu Dan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Ma Lap-hak and Ho Shan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.