Friends and supporters of a prominent rights activist from the eastern province of Jiangxi are increasingly concerned for her safety after they lost contact with her several days ago, saying they now believe she is in hiding from China's feared state security police.
Liu Linna, widely known by her pseudonym Liu Shasha, was detained last week by authorities in her home city of Nanyang after she went to apply for a permit to visit her husband in Hong Kong, a former British colony that still maintains an immigration border with the mainland.
Liu's husband, political activist Yeung Hung, who captained a converted fishing vessel that carried nationalist activists to the disputed Diaoyu islands where they were detained and deported by Japan in October 2012, said she had been summoned by Nanyang state security police on suspicion of "spreading false information to disrupt social order."
However, no news has emerged of her since, and no official announcement has been made of any formal charges against her.
Liu's friends now believe she may have escaped, according to Twitter posts on Wednesday.
"I have just received news that Yeung Hung is on the train, leaving Xinyu [city]," wrote Twitter user @jameschownb. "Shasha managed to escape the national treasures [pun for state security police] in the process of being escorted back to Henan under detention."
"Right now, we don't know what has happened to her. She probably doesn't have a cell phone."
'Targets of oppression'
Yeung had traveled to Liu's home province of Jiangxi following her detention, in a bid to find out what had happened to her, Beijing rights activist Hu Jia told RFA's Cantonese Service on Tuesday.
"Both of them have long been targets of oppression by the Chinese government," Hu said. "When I try to get a message to them via [the messaging service] What's App, it shows as unread."
"I am very worried," he said.
He said Yeung had been a target for the authorities every time he visited mainland China from neighboring Hong Kong, which enjoys a wider range of freedoms than most Chinese cities.
Liu Shasha was initially detained for re-tweeting news about police in Xinjiang opening fire on Uyghurs on June 28, in an incident in which at least 15 people were killed, Yeung said at the time of her detention.
However, later tweets attributed to her show support for three activists being tried for subversion in Xinyu after they held up placards calling on high-ranking Chinese officials to reveal details of their personal wealth.
The trial of the three activists—Liu Ping, Wei Zhongping and Li Sihua—was suspended on Monday after repeated complaints by their lawyers that they had been illegally detained and denied a fair hearing in court.
Amid a crackdown on China's usually outspoken social media sites, the Supreme People’s Court and state prosecution service issued guidelines on Sept. 9 warning that "rumor-mongering" is a crime punishable under law.
Anyone posting information online deemed by the authorities to be "spreading rumors" or "defaming" another person may now be punished for a serious offense if the post is subsequently viewed at least 5,000 times or re-posted at least 500 times.
Liu Shasha has worked to support a number of human rights causes across China in recent years.
She was detained and beaten by Beijing police in February after she tried, alongside Yeung Hung, to visit Liu Xia, the wife of jailed Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo under house arrest at her Beijing home.
Holding a placard with the words "Liu Xia, everyone is behind you!" and shouting slogans through a megaphone, she and Yeung were quickly detained by police.
But while Yeung was released back to Hong Kong officials, the feisty and outspoken Liu was handed over to officials and police from Henan, and was incommunicado for several days.
She later told fellow activists she was suffering from perforated eardrums after police "pinned me to the floor and boxed my ears a great many times" during an altercation about her confiscated bank card.
Liu Shasha was also instrumental in promoting Charter 08, a controversial document calling for sweeping political change in China that led to the jailing of Liu Xiaobo for 11 years in December 2009 on subversion charges.
Reported by Lin Jing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Xin Yu for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.