Jailed Chinese rights activist Guo Feixiong is on hunger strike in protest at ill-treatment at his prison in the southern province of Guangdong, his sister said on Friday.
"I went to visit him on May 11, and he had already been on hunger strike since May 9," his sister Yang Maoping told RFA. "I told him not to do this, that he should at least drink something."
"I saw the head of the Guangdong Prisons Bureau about this on May 10 and told him what I thought, and he asked me to plead with Guo not to carry on with his hunger strike," she said.
"But I feel very conflicted about it, and it's driving me crazy. The hardest thing is that they are mistreating [Guo]," she said.
"I have protested against this several times, but they don't pay any attention to me."
Guo told Yang to come back at the end of July and see if he was still alive, she said.
"He said that this time, his hunger strike is indefinite," Yang said.
Abused in prison
Guo had been subjected to a forced rectal cavity search at the instigation of state security police, according to the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (CHRLCG).
Prison guards had filmed the procedure and threatened to post the video online, the group said via its Twitter account on Friday.
Guo's lawyer Zhang Lei said he last saw his client on May 6, at a meeting that was cut short after two minutes by prison guards.
"We are appalled at this news [of Guo's hunger strike]," Zhang told RFA on Friday.
"His mood is very unpredictable right now," he added.
But he said he was unsure of how to help Guo.
"I don't think they would approve another visit even if I applied for one, and I'm not sure if it would do anything to help, anyway," he said.
Activists call for support
As of May 18, 183 activists in China and overseas had joined a relay fast calling for Guo's release.
Activists are also calling on campaigners to call up the prison where Guo is being held, and to send him postcards offering their support.
Campaigners are calling for Guo's unconditional release to seek medical treatment.
Guo was sentenced last November for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble" and "gathering a crowd to disrupt social order" after a prolonged period in pretrial detention where he was held alone in a closet-size cell and denied access to the exercise yard for nearly two years.
Yang, who is a doctor, says she fears her brother's life may already be at risk, as he suffers from intermittent bloody or watery stools, as well as occasional bleeding in the mouth and throat, and suffered a hemorrhage on April 19.
She said he is unsteady on his feet and has been denied medical tests to establish the cause of his bleeding.
Reported by Pan Jiaqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Kou Tianli for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.