The elderly mother of ailing human rights activist and website founder Huang Qi is incommunicado, while her son has yet to receive an official sentence following his trial, RFA has learned.
Pu Wenqing, 86, is currently under house arrest at her home in Mianyang city, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, and is being watched over by state security police, sources told RFA.
Repeated calls to her cell phone this week resulted in a "no such number" message or no answer.
Pu, who is a retired doctor, has been under close surveillance since she tried to visit the Mianyang Intermediate People's Court on hearing that an inspection team from the ruling Chinese Communist Party in Beijing was visiting.
"It seems that the central government is inspecting [Mianyang], which is what this is all about," a source close to the case told RFA. "She told me [on Tuesday] that there were people standing guard both upstairs and at ground level, and that their number had grown."
Pu has been a vocal campaigner for Huang's release on urgent medical grounds, and says the charges against him are politically motivated, with no evidence to back them up.
She has also said she possesses documents proving that the charges against Huang were fabricated by the authorities, and the source said the local government is keen to stop her from traveling to Beijing with her petition.
Sources said Pu is in extremely poor health and may have cancer, but can only receive medical treatment during home visits by doctors.
"Her health is very poor; she has said there seems to be a mass of some sort in her heart and lungs," another source said. "She asked me to buy [Chinese herbs] but I don't think they did much good."
"The police guards took her to the hospital, which should be their duty in terms of humanitarian and human rights concern, even if she isn't their grandmother," the source said.
'I can't get through'
Chongqing-based rights activist Hu Guiqin told RFA that he has been unable to call Pu since the evening of June 4, the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.
"I can't get through. I have been unable to call her since the night of June 3," Hu said.
Last December, Pu was forcibly detained and pushed to the ground by authorities in Beijing after traveling there to press her son's case, and was incommunicado for several weeks afterwards.
But she returned to Sichuan, where she hired Jiangxi-based lawyer Zhang Zanning to represent Huang, and made another attempt to visit her son at the Mianyang Detention Center.
Pu also met with diplomats from Germany, Italy, the the U.K., U.S. and Switzerland at that time.
Leaking state secrets
Huang, 56, stood trial in January at the Mianyang Intermediate People's Court on charges of "leaking state secrets" and "leaking state secrets overseas," amid concerns that he could soon die in detention.
He was recently identified by Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) as one of 10 citizen journalists in danger of dying in detention.
Huang, who founded the Tianwang rights website, has repeatedly denied the charges and has refused to "confess."
Huang's Tianwang website had a strong track record of highlighting petitions and complaints against official wrongdoing and injustices meted out to the most vulnerable in society, including forced evictees, parents of children who died in the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and other peaceful critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
The overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, which collates reports from rights groups inside China, says Huang is among a number of gravely ill detainees or prisoners who "continue to suffer from torture by being deprived of proper medical treatment in Chinese detention centers and prisons."
"We are gravely concerned about their fate as the next victims of China’s deliberate method of persecution to death through torture by medical deprivation," the group said in a statement on Thursday.
Reported by Tseng Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Han Qing for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.