Human Rights Defender: Hu Jia in China

15 Jan

According to a BBC report, Hu Jia, a well-known AIDS and human rights activist has been arrested by the police two days after Christmas last year. His wife, Zeng Jinyan, also another activist, is unaware of her husband’s whereabouts and is herself, currently under house arrest with at least 10 security personnel guarding their home. The arrest warrant for Hu Jia, issued by the Beijing Public Security Bureau, accused the veteran activist of ‘inciting subversion.’

While BBC was initially able to contact Zeng, subsequent visits by other foreign journalists were banned. According to a later report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), one of Hu Jia’s lawyers, Li Jinsong, was placed under house arrest for a few hours in a Beijing hotel after he tried to ‘invite foreign journalists to confirm that it was impossible for him to see Hu’s wife’. The NGO also reported that the lawyer, himself, is under police surveillance and house arrest while Hu’s other lawyer, Li Fangping, was ‘strongly urged not to try to approach Zeng’s home. Other foreign journalists who tried to visit Zeng, were stopped from approaching their apartment by the police. The lawyers had also been prevented from visiting Hu as the authorities claimed that his case is classified under ‘state secret’.

According to RSF, 57 Chinese activists and writers have written a letter on the 6th January, petitioning for Hu’s ‘immediate release and urging the police to ensure that his health does not deteriorate while in detention’. Hu Jia is reported to be suffering from liver ailments according to RSF and hepatitis B according to Amnesty International (AI). The US State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, has also said “This is a case that we’ve been following closely and we have brought it up with the Chinese authorities,” when reporters asked him about the case.

Prior to the arrest, the man had been placed under house arrest. Despite these restrictions, he has used his webcam to participate in a European parliamentary hearing in Brussels on 26 November, condemning human rights violations in China. He was also awarded a special prize for his human rights work by the RSF and Fondation de France and spoke, using the same methods, to the press during the award ceremony in Paris on 5 December.

The trigger for the house arrest occurred on 18th May when Hu Jia and his wife were prevented from flying to Europe for a two-month visit, as they were ‘suspected of harming state security’.

About a year before, on 16th February, Hu was kidnapped by the police and held for 41 days without his medications. According to an interview with Radio Free Asia, in which he related the details of the kidnapping, he spent 30 of those days on a hunger strike. AI reported that he had been kidnapped for being part of a relay hunger strike, started by human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng on the 4th of that month, to protest against recent beatings and detentions of human rights activists and lawyers who sought to defend them.

After being released from his kidnappers, which Hu Jia believed were members from the Internal State Security Brigade of the Beijing Public Security Bureau (in which he allegedly claimed, is the department which oversees Office Number 610, as the team that persecutes Falungong dissidents; and also the department in charge of the Olympic games) his wife and him were subjected to house arrest for 214 days between August 2006 and March 2007. The couple made a documentary film about their ordeal, ‘Prisoners of Freedom City,’ which is their personal account of the seven-month period.

Hu Jia’s brush in with the Chinese authorities dated to as early as 2004 according to AI when he was detained by the police on several occasions ‘to stop him from publicly commemorating the 15th anniversary of the 4 June 1989 crackdown.’

He is also the co-founder of the Beijing Aizhixing Institute of Health Education and an outspoken advocate for people with HIV/AIDS according to AI. Hu is forced to resign from another HIV advocacy group which he co-founded, Loving Source, which aims to help children deal with parents lost to AIDS, in a bid to prevent authorities from harassing the group.

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References:

1. Fears for rights as Beijing 2008 nears, BBC, Michael Bristow, 2 January 2008

2. Hu Jia’s lawyer put under house arrest; foreign journalists prevented from visiting wife and daughter, Reporters Without Borders, 8 January 2008

3. Outrage at human rights activist Hu Jia’s arrest in Beijing, Reporters Without Borders, 28 December 2007

4. US follows closely ‘disturbing’ case of detained Chinese activist, AFP, 15 January 2008

5. China: Activist Couple Accused of Endangering State Security; House Arrest, Travel Ban Arbitrarily Imposed on Couple Without Formal Charges, Human Rights Watch, 21 May, 2007

6. Interview With AIDS Activist Hu Jia, Radio Free Asia, 29 March 2006

7. Health professional action; Hu Jia, HIV/AIDS activist; China, Amnesty International, 23 February 2006, Public AI index: ASA17/011/2006

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2 Responses to “Human Rights Defender: Hu Jia in China”

  1. Erynn Shea Kelly January 17, 2008 at 2:32 am #

    It is so frustrating as an American that our government is so allied with the Chinese. It’s shameful and embarrassing, actually. The international community, particularly Americans, need to make more noise about human rights violations in China and think twice about buying products made in China or visiting their country and spending our money there.

    I wish stories like this were more prevalent in the mainstream media. Here’s another story not reported on network television about Christians arrested and tortured for celebrating Christmas in China.

  2. Roger Matthews January 17, 2008 at 11:33 am #

    I think the time is long overdure for Australia and the rest of the free world to be talking ( BOYCOTE of the olympics ). The reality is i would have more chance of pissing ito a huricane !

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