The mother of detained rights activist Huang Qi has called on the ruling Chinese Communist Party to fully investigate the case of her son, who has been held for more than a year on "spying" charges with repeated delays and inadequate medical treatment.
Pu Wenqing submitted an application to the branch office of the central government inspection team in the southwestern province of Sichuan on Monday, she told RFA, amid growing concerns over Huang's rapidly deteriorating health in a police-run detention center.
"I am so very worried about him, especially about his health, because he has edema, very severely in his lower extremities," Pu said. "His creatinine levels are high, which, along with the swelling in the lower extremities, indicates severe renal failure."
"The medical treatment available in the detention center is very limited," Pu said. "I am afraid that he will die in there."
Pu said repeated applications for Huang's release on bail or medical parole have been ignored or turned down by the authorities.
"I was received at the central inspection team, and they even took my documents," she said. "They told me that they would take all of them, but that the case wasn't within their remit, and that it would be passed on to the relevant departments. they told me to stay in touch by phone."
She added: "I gave them a general introduction to Huang Qi's case, telling them ... that the so-called secret documents [he is supposed to have leaked] had no official letterhead, no official stamp and weren't marked 'Top Secret'."
"I also demanded that Huang Qi be allowed to go home immediately, so as to seek medical treatment," Pu said.
Huang, 55, who founded the Tianwang rights website, was formally arrested by the state prosecution office in Sichuan's provincial capital, Chengdu, in December 2016 on charges of "illegally supplying state secrets overseas."
He has been held in the police-run Mianyang Detention Center for more than a year, sparking fears that he may be subjected to torture or mistreatment as police try to elicit a “confession” from him.
The case is currently pending at the Mianyang Intermediate People’s Court, but there has been no sign of progress towards a trial.
Huang's defense attorney Liu Zhengqing, who visited his client at the beginning of this month, confirmed Pu's reports that Huang is suffering from edema, particularly in his lower legs.
Fellow defense lawyer Li Jinglin said there is no basis whatsoever for the charges against Huang, which he said were "ridiculous."
But he said he holds out scant hope for Huang's release.
"The entire justice system is like this, so I think they will likely send him to jail," Li said. "If they let him out now, it would have to be because they have decided he is innocent. If they have indicted him, it means they will sentence him."
Li said the authorities have refused to give out any details of the case against Huang to his lawyers.
"They just ignore you; it's all behind closed doors," he said. "It's hard to get any of our questions answered."
Deaths of political prisoners
Activists say the ruling Chinese Communist Party appears in recent years to be deliberately accelerating the deaths of political prisoners.
Nobel peace laureate and political prisoner Liu Xiaobo died last July, just weeks after being diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer, and repeated requests from his family to seek medical treatment overseas were ignored.
And human rights activist Cao Shunli died in police detention on March 14, 2014, after repeated requests for her release to seek medical treatment.
Cao was detained on Sept. 14, 2013, as she was boarding a flight to Geneva, where she was to attend a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council, where she hoped to participate in drafting China’s human rights action plans and reports for its U.N. human rights reviews.
Huang has already served a sentence of three years in prison from November 2011 after launching an investigation into shoddy school construction blamed for thousands of deaths during a massive 2008 earthquake.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.