Authorities in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin have transferred jailed rights attorney Wang Quanzhang to a prison in the eastern province of Shandong and suspended visiting rights, his wife said.
Wang’s sister received official notification that he had been transferred to Linyi Prison on April 29.
An attached document said visiting rights had been suspended pending remodeling and renovation work at the prison, Wang's wife Li Wenzu told RFA.
Li said she had made around 10 attempts to call the prison on Friday after seeing the notice, but that her calls result in the line being cut off immediately by whoever was on the other end.
"I started calling Linyi Prison this morning at 9.00 this morning," Li told RFA. "I got through after I dialed, said hello, then they hung up the phone, so I dialed again."
"I dialed more than 10 times, and each time I was connected for about three seconds, and then someone hung up," she said. "Nobody spoke on the other end. It was the same every time."
"I had previously wanted to call to ask after Wang Quanzhang, but they didn't make the number public before," she said.
Li said she is suspicious that the "renovations" at the prison are simply another pretext to prevent her from seeing Wang. She has yet to see her husband during his long detention.
"The authorities want to make sure he is completely cut off from the outside world," she said. "That's why they are saying this; it's nothing to do with Linyi Prison."
"I won't know how he is until I am allowed to see him," Li said.
Li said Wang's transfer must mean that he has now begun serving a four-and-a-half year jail term handed down on Jan. 28 by the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People's Court, which found him guilty of "subversion of state power."
The verdict and sentence followed repeated delays, resulting in Wang being held in pretrial detention for more than three years with no access to a lawyer or family visits.
"It must mean that he is now serving that sentence, and he has been sent to Linyi for that purpose," Li said. "That's why I demand to be allowed a monthly visit."
Li said she would sue the authorities if they continued to prevent her from visiting Wang.
Rights groups say there are concerns that Wang may have been subjected to torture or other mistreatment in detention, as he was detained incommunicado for such a long period of time, and that this may be the reason behind officials' insistence on secrecy.
During that time, the authorities failed to provide a proper account of Wang’s prolonged detention to the public, including Wang’s family and family-appointed defense lawyers, they say.
Repeated calls to Linyi Prison rang unanswered during office hours on Friday.
Reported by Wong Lok-to for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.