Hu Jia, photographed in 2007 while under house arrest in Beijing.
China's state security police on Thursday were closely watching a Beijing hospital where veteran dissident Hu Jia is being treated for an acute illness linked to long-running health problems, activists told RFA.
Hu Jia, 43, a former winner of the European Union's Sakharov human rights prize was taken to Beijing's You'an Hospital on Saturday with acute pancreatitis, and is being evaluated for surgery, Hu's supporters said.
His ex-wife Zeng Jinyan said Hu is off the critical list "for the time being," and that his condition has slightly improved, to the point where he has been able to eat something.
"However, he is still very weak and has lost a lot of weight," she said, adding that Hu is now being evaluated for gallbladder and liver surgery.
Meanwhile, Beijing activist Zhao Changqing traveled to the hospital, bringing his state security police detail along with him, after he refused to stay at home under surveillance, an unnamed supporter told RFA.
"A couple of plainclothes state security police from [Hu's home district of] Tongzhou also came to enquire after his health," the source said. "The plainclothes police are now downstairs and in the vicinity [of the building]."
Calls to Zhao's cell phone rang unanswered on Thursday.
A second source who visited Hu on Thursday said doctors are concerned that Hu has been weakened by severe diarrhea, and needs further procedures before surgery can be attempted.
"But the acute pancreatitis has been confirmed, on top of which he has cirrhosis of the liver, so the picture is very complicated," the second source said.
"He has very high potassium levels, and they will operate on his liver and gallbladder if they can't get them down."
Hu, who has hepatitis B, has limited treatment options in Beijing, owing to restrictions on which hospitals can handle infectious diseases.
"There is a huge risk attached to surgery, however," the second source said.
Hu was handed a three-and-a-half year jail term in 2008 for “incitement to subversion” after he wrote online articles critical of China’s hosting of the Olympics.
A campaigner for human rights and AIDS victims, and a vocal critic of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, Hu was awarded the Sakharov Prize, a major human rights award, by the European Union in 2008.
Zeng had warned repeatedly that his health was deteriorating badly in prison, but five applications for medical parole were turned down by the authorities.
Beijing rights lawyer Sui Muqing said there is likely a direct connection between Hu's current health problems and his time in jail.
"His cirrhosis of the liver and now this acute pancreatitis are related to his time in jail," Sui said. "He was never in particularly good health, and wasn't well enough to do jail time and people thought [something like this might happen]."
"This is very worrying, because he is in such poor health," Sui said.