Confusion surrounded the status of Liu Xia, widow of late Nobel laureate and political prisoner Liu Xiaobo, on Tuesday following a report that she had been cleared by the ruling Chinese Communist Party to leave the country.
The Australian newspaper reported that Liu "will be allowed to leave China," citing online posts by close friend and outspoken journalist Gao Yu.
"[Gao] has posted online that the authorities had agreed to release Ms. Liu, as long as she did not create any issues for them in the meantime," the paper reported.
The report followed a tweet from Pin Ho, editor of New York-based Chinese news magazine Mingjing News, who wrote: "I am hearing that Liu Xia has already been informed by the Chinese foreign ministry that she will get her normal level of freedom back, and that she will be allowed to leave the country."
But fellow Beijing rights activist Hu Jia said there were no indications that Liu Xia is indeed free to leave China, as reported.
"There are no indications that any certainty of commitment will be made, not from Liu Xia or her brother Liu Hui, nor from any of the diplomatic missions in China that have been involved in trying to free Liu Xia," Hu told RFA on Tuesday. "There is no commitment that she will be able to go to a Western country, or that she will be able to leave the country at all."
Meanwhile, Liu Xia's defense attorney Mo Shaoping declined to comment on the rumors, saying only: "I haven't been able to confirm this with Liu Xia."
Concerns have been mounting for Liu after she described herself in a recent note as being shut up in an apartment, "talking to myself and lying here like a dead thing," a hand-scrawled note posted by a friend to Twitter has revealed.
Liu, who has committed no crime, but who has been under tight surveillance or house arrest since her husband's Nobel prize was announced in October 2010, suffers from a number of mental and physical health problems.
Activists have repeatedly called on the ruling Chinese Communist Party to allow her to go overseas and seek medical treatment, and Liu herself has repeatedly requested permission to leave China.
Germany-based author Liao Yiwu said Ho's sources are unlikely to be reliable.
"[He] doesn't have any really reliable source for this," Liao said. "I haven't heard anything about it, although people are continuing to work [for it to happen], and there has been no real progress."
"Physically, her health has seen a slight improvement, but her depression is still very severe."
Guangdong-based writer Ye Du, who is also a close friend of Liu's, said he would like to be able to believe the reports.
"On an emotional level, it would be wonderful for Liu Xia if this story were true," Ye said. "But rationally speaking, I don't think it is reliable. The foreign ministry would never contact Liu Xia directly; it would be people like the state security police; it doesn't make sense in terms of the way the party and the government operate."
And in Hong Kong, the Information Center for Human Rights and the Democracy Movement in China said in a statement that it had contacted Liu Xia to try to corroborate the reports.
"She just said 'I don't know, I don't know,' and then 'there's been no change from before,'" the group said in a statement on Tuesday.
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 last July, weeks after being diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer, and after repeated requests from his family to seek medical treatment overseas were ignored.
Police have since detained a number of activists who staged memorials in his honor, and his name is still a banned search term on China's tightly controlled internet.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.