Reporters Without Borders today accused the Chinese authorities, especially state security, of violating the new regulations for foreign journalists by preventing them from visiting the wife of detained human rights activist Hu Jia and of violating the right of Hu’s lawyers to visit their client. One of the lawyers was placed under house arrest for a few hours.
"Despite all the appeals from within China and throughout the world for Hu’s release, the government is taking an even tougher position by depriving his wife and their two-month-old daughter of their freedom," the press freedom organisation said.
On January 10th, one of Hu’s lawyers, Li Jinsong, was placed under house arrest for a few hours in a Beijing hotel, after inviting foreign journalists to confirm that it was impossible for him to see Hu’s wife, Zeng Jinyan. He is under surveillance by the police. His other lawyer, Li Fangping, was not detained but he was strongly urged not to try to approach Zeng’s home.
Previously, the authorities prevented them from visiting Hu in prison on 4 January on the grounds that the case had been classified as a "state secret."
The police today prevented a group of foreign journalists from entering the Beijing apartment building where Zeng, a well-known blogger, lives with the couple’s two-month-old daughter Qianci, saying it was because a "criminal investigation" was under way. After checking their passports, the police allowed the reporters to leave but made the photographers delete the photos they had taken.
On 8 January, Zeng was able to talk to some German journalists through one of the windows of her apartment. She talked about the conditions in which her husband is being held and how the police are preventing all his friends and relatives from seeing her. "The police have searched the apartment several times and have taken our computer and telephones," she said, adding: "I am very worried about Hu Jia."
After that conversation, the police installed a curtain to prevent Zeng from being seen from outside the apartment. More than 20 police officers are permanently stationed around her home. Zeng has been completely isolated since Hu’s arrest, when the phone lines and Internet connection were cut off.
A friend of Hu’s told Reporters Without Borders he had also been prevented from visiting Zeng at home and that police officers were subsequently stationed outside his own home. On 5 January, the police searched the home of Hu’s parents to ensure they did not have documents about his arrest that they could give to the news media.
Hu has been held since 27 December on a charge of "inciting subversion of the state." Referring to his arrest on 3 January, a foreign ministry spokesman said: "Everyone is equal before the law and no one is above the law. We are handling this case according to the law."
Li, the lawyer who was placed under house arrest today, was awarded the French government’s human rights prize last month. French justice minister Rachida Dati met him when she accompanied President Nicolas Sarkozy on a visit to China in November.
Fifty-seven Chinese activists and writers released an open letter on 6 January calling for Hu’s immediate release and urging the police to ensure that his health does not deteriorate while in detention. Hu has a liver ailment.
Sign the petition for the release of Hu Jia
Zeng Jinyan and her daughter (January 11, 2008)