A Beijing-based artist currently detained on public order charges in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing is critically ill in hospital after beginning a hunger strike following his trial on Aug. 13, RFA has learned.
Liu Jinxing -- who is better known by his artist name Zhui Hun -- was detained by Nanjing police in late May 2019 alongside five other prominent and outspoken artists who had exhibits in the city at the same time.
While activists initially believed them held temporarily ahead of the politically senstive anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre on June 4, Zhui was later held under criminal detention on suspicion of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," a charge commonly used to target peaceful critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
His family were informed by the authorities at the Nanjing No. 3 Detention Center of his transfer from to a critical care facility at a hospital in the city, his wife Liu Lijiao told RFA on Tuesday.
Liu said Zhui's father had received notification on Aug. 21 that his son was critically ill after refusing food in detention.
She said details of how Zhui had gotten so sick are currently vague.
"I asked the lawyer to ask them for me," she said. "Then, I called the detention center, myself. I couldn’t get through for a long time, but when I finally spoke to a staff member, they said they couldn't give out any information because they had no way of verifying my identity."
Zhui's lawyer Xie Yanyi said his client stood trial at the Xuanwu District People's Court in Nanjing on Aug. 13, where he had stated that he would go on hunger strike.
"When he made his final statement on the day of the trial, Zhui said he would refuse to eat in detention out of protest that he didn't get a fair trial," Xie told RFA, adding that the court has yet to issue a verdict or a sentence in the case.
"We later communicated that to the judge, and the judge said that he wanted to meet with him," he said.
"Then, the detention center issued a notice about his condition ... but the fact that he was already critically ill by then shows that he had been on hunger strike for some time," Xie said.
Xie said the case against Zhui was a violation of his freedom of expression and basic human rights, and that Zhui had refused to "confess" or plead guilty to the charge against him.
Repeated calls to the Nanjing No. 3 Detention Center rang unanswered during office hours on Tuesday.
Zhui, 48, is a well-known member of Beijing's Songzhuang Artists' Village.
His "Scream" series of performance artworks has taken aim at official wrongdoing, and he has auctioned off artworks to provide financial aid to the families of Chinese prisoners of conscience.
His detention came as he traveled to Nanjing to hold a fund-raising art auction alongside other artists.
Reported by Wong Siu-san and Sing Man for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.