Terminally ill political prisoner and Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo suffered "respiratory failure" and septic shock, according to the hospital in northeastern China where he is receiving treatment.
Liu suffered respiratory failure as his condition worsened, the Shenyang No. 1 Medical University hospital in Shenyang, Liaoning province said in a statement.
It said Liu's family had declined to have him put on artificial ventilation, which was necessary "to maintain life".
"The hospital has explained the necessity of tracheal intubation to the patient's family; The family refused the tracheal intubation," the hospital said on its website.
A source close to the Liu family told RFA that his condition is very unstable.
"Yes, of course it's gotten more serious," the friend said. "He is still being watched by the police, though, and nobody from outside is allowed any contact with him."
"Now, it's just Liu, [his wife] Liu Xia and [Liu Xia's brother] Liu Hui in the hospital," the friend said. "Nobody else is allowed to just go there and visit him."
Tumor is growing
However, another source quoted a relative who had managed to visit on Wednesday morning as saying that Liu had only been in danger for around 20 minutes, after which he had stabilized. RFA was unable to confirm this report independently, however.
The hospital said Liu's late-stage liver tumor has grown and that he has bleeding from the liver as well as kidney problems.
The latest statement comes amid a growing chorus of criticism aimed at the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which is preventing Liu, his wife Liu Xia, and her brother Liu Hui from leaving the country to seek medical treatment overseas.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said once more that overseas critics should respect China's judicial sovereignty and "not interfere in China's internal affairs under the pretext of an individual case."
Former top Communist Party aide Bao Tong said he is very angry at the authorities for preventing Liu from accepting offers of treatment from Germany and the United States, however.
"What sort of government is this?" Bao said. "They need to try to save his life, and he needs to be set free."
"Any sort of delays, or excuses for delays only serve to show us what the government really thinks of its citizens: they treat them like animals," he said.
Inhumanity stretches back to Mao era
Bao said the refusal to consider the humanity of citizens dates back to the Mao era of China's recent history.
"They have never treated people like people," Bao said. "They see them as targets for political struggle, oppression and dictatorship; even their emphasis on a harmonious society today means they don't recognize people as human."
"It would be the easiest thing in the world for them to grant Liu Xiaobo's wish and allow him to travel overseas for treatment," he said.
Hong Kong Medical Association chairman Yeung Chiu-fat said septic shock is a very serious form of infection.
"Septic shock means ... that the extent of the infection is very serious, and if the person's immune system is compromised, then the bacteria can spread through the whole body," Yeung told RFA.
"We could be talking about one or two weeks [of life left]."
Chen Bingzhong, former director of China's Institute of Health Education, said overseas treatment could prolong Liu's life, however.
"They need to be able to employ the latest treatment protocols ... and collaboration with overseas is necessary to do that," Chen said. "If it is possible for them to allow him to be treated in Germany or the U.S., then it is entirely possible that his life could be prolonged."
U.S. oncologist Joseph Herman from the University of Texas' MD Anderson Cancer Center and German doctor Markus Buchler of Heidelberg University said last week that moving Liu to an overseas hospital would be feasible.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.