The wife of jailed human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang saw no improvement in his mental state when she visited him in prison on Thursday, she told RFA.
Li Wenzu arrived to visit Wang, who is serving a four-and-a-half year jail term for "subversion of state power" at Linyi Prison in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong, on Thursday.
When she was allowed in to meet with her husband, what she found made her more concerned about his mental and physical health than before.
"When I met with Wang Quanzhang, I felt that he was so, so tired, and he didn't look good at all," she said. "His mental state had deteriorated since last time I saw him."
Wang had become angry and defended the authorities when Li said the prison had repeatedly delayed her visit, she said.
"He got very angry and said that he doesn't have any problem with the prison, that they are fine, and if they postpone our meetings it's because he is probably sick or indisposed," she said.
Li has previously expressed concern at Wang's mental state, saying that he had always been known for his clarity of thought and rigorous logic, but that he now seems dazed and anxious, which made her worry that he has been brainwashed.
Li's meeting with Wang came after she arrived in Linyi last week, only to be put off by the prison authorities for several days.
Repeated calls to Linyi Prison rang unanswered during office hours on Thursday, which isn't a public holiday in China.
Rights attorney Xie Yanyi said the meeting was likely rescheduled to coincide with Christmas, in a bid to avoid international media attention during the holiday season.
"It's pretty clear what they intended here," Xie said. "Around Christmas and New Year, everyone is probably focused on the holiday season, so they can minimize the publicity."
Wang is currently serving a four-and-a-half year jail term handed down on Jan. 28, 2019 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.
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.
A nationwide police operation under the administration of President Xi Jinping has targeted more than 300 lawyers, law firms, and related activists for questioning, detention, imprisonment, debarring, and travel bans since it launched in July 2015.
Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.