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Hu Jia

(JPEG) Hu Jia was sentenced on 3 April 2008 to three-and-a-half years’ jail and one year’s denial of political rights. He was arrested on 27 December for “inciting subversion of state authority.” He was held at the Chaoyang municipal detention centre in the northeastern outskirts of Beijing, until his trial on March 18. His wife and four-month-old daughter are under house arrest at their Beijing apartment.

A humanitarian activist since the start of the 1990s, Hu is involved not only in HIV prevention and helping HIV/AIDS sufferers, but also protecting the environment and defending prisoners of conscience. He uses the Internet, especially his blog and videos, to expose the regime’s repression of those who defend human rights. He was arrested and held incommunicado for 40 days in the spring of 2006. On his release, he was placed under house arrest. Police stationed around the couple’s apartment building prevented him from going out. His wife, Zeng Jinyan, was followed whenever she left the apartment.

Hu and Zeng were awarded the Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France special “China” prize at the start of December. Time magazine named Zeng as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2006.

Hu used his webcam to address a European parliamentary hearing on 26 November, on the human rights situation in China. He said at one point during the hearing: “It is ironic that one of the people in charge of organising the Olympic Games is the head of the Bureau of Public Security, which is responsible for so many human rights violations. It is very serious that the official promises are not being kept before the games.”


27 December
Hu is at home with his wife, grandmother and six-week-old daughter when around 20 policemen burst in at 3 p.m., disconnect their Internet connection and phone lines and take Hu away. Some of the police officers remain in the apartment to prevent Zeng from telling anyone what had happened. They show her a warrant for Hu’s arrest for “subverting state authority.”

28-29 December
Human rights activist Li Jinping is stopped and questioned by the police when he tries to approach the couple’s home.

31 December
Hu is taken to the Chaoyang municipal detention centre in a northeastern suburb of Beijing. The police tell his family they are looking for articles he had posted online, especially articles about the Olympics. European parliament president Hans-Gert Pöttering calls for Hu’s release.

2 January
The couple’s apartment building is surrounded by about 10 police cars and 30-40 policemen. They prevent Zeng from having contact with anyone. The also threaten her, saying she had better cooperate if she wants to protect the baby.

3 January
Referring to Hu’s arrest, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman says: “Everyone is equal before the law and no one is above the law. We are handling this case according to the law.”

4 January
The authorities prevent Hu’s lawyers, Li Jinsong and Li Fangping, from visiting him in prison on the grounds that the case has been classified as a “state secret.”

5 January
The police search the home of Hu’s parents to ensure that they do not provide the media with any documents about Hu’s arrest. Zeng is questioned by the police, who try to discourage her from talking to anyone about her current situation and her husband’s arrest.

6 January
An open letter, signed by more than 90 well-known Chinese figures (including activists, writers and lawyers), describes Hu’s arrest as “unacceptable,” calls for his immediate release and asks the authorities to ensure that his health does not deteriorate while in detention.

8 January
Zeng talks to some German journalists through one of the windows of her apartment. She says: “The police have searched the apartment several times and have taken our computer and telephones. I am very worried about Hu Jia.” The police then install a curtain to prevent Zeng from being seen from outside the apartment.

10 January
One of Hu’s lawyers, Li Jinsong, is placed under house arrest for a few hours in the Beijing hotel where he lives. Hu’s other lawyer, Li Fangping, is strongly urged by the police not to try to approach the couple’s home. Neither of the lawyers has yet been able to see Hu.

11 January
The police prevent a group of foreign journalists from entering Zeng’s apartment building, saying a criminal investigation is under way. They tell the journalists to delete the photos they have taken.

14 January
Asked about Hu’s arrest, US state department spokesman Sean McCormack says: “This is a case that we have been following closely and we have brought it up with Chinese authorities. It is disturbing and I would expect that the Chinese government would want to provide some details about this case. It is one that is important and that our embassy in Beijing is following quite closely.”

15 January
The European Union announces that it will formally protest to the Chinese about Hu’s arrest. “We take this very seriously,” an EU official said. “It will be raised formally with China. This is still being discussed but it will be done soon.”

17 January
The European parliament adopts a resolution demanding Hu’s prompt release and urging China not to use the Olympic Games as a pretext to arrest and illegally detain human rights activists. An EU troika opens negotiations with China.

18 January
Chinese bloggers show solidarity with Hu and his family by posted comments about his arrest or messages of support. But cyber-censors are quick to delete comments posted by Hu’s sympathisers.

19 January
A message, which the authorities have allowed Hu to write, is delivered to his family. He describes the conditions in which he is being held as acceptable, but says he is missing his family terribly.

20 January
Around 40 Beijing-based bloggers try to go to Zeng’s apartment in a show of protest. The police spot them and prevent them from approaching the building Zeng refuses to let police officers enter her apartment. They threaten to imprison her on the same charges as her husband. Beijing lawyer Xu Zhiyong sends an open letter to President Hu Jintao criticising Hu Jia’s arrest.

21 January
Lawyer and human rights activist Teng Biao reports that a line has been drawn around the couple’s apartment building defining a perimeter which no one except residents are allowed to cross. Li Jinsong, one of Hu’s lawyers, asks the authorities to release his client on medical grounds until his trial. The authorities have not responded to this request.

23 January
Bloggers who tried to approach the couple’s home on 20 January are arrested and questioned for several hours by police. All the attempts to mail Zeng powdered milk for the baby seem to have failed. The police are intercepting all mail addressed to Zeng. Yuan Weijing, the wife of imprisoned lawyer Chen Guangcheng, writes an open letter to President Hu Jintao calling for Hu Jia’s immediate release. Yuan, who is also under house arrest, says she is worried about Hu’s health and Zeng’s situation.

29 January
Hu is still being held incommunicado as his behaviour has been defined as “harmful to society.” One of his lawyers, Li Fangping, tells Radio Free Asia that the police have for the second time rejected his request for his client’s provisional release. According to Li, the police will no longer be able to prevent lawyer visits after the investigation is completed. The other lawyer, Li Jingsong, was also recently in contact with the Beijing police but he has not been reachable for several days.

30 January
Hu Jia’s family has been told that he has been charged for "inciting subversion of state power”, just two days before the end of the legal time limit for being held in custody.

4 February
Around 100 people from various provinces who have signed a petition for imprisoned human rights activist Hu Jia’s release went to his apartment on 3 February to express their support for his wife, Zeng Jinyan, in the runup to the Chinese New Year. The apartment block’s guards and police prevented them from entering and checked their ID papers.

“We were followed by two police cars when we took the secondary entrance,” Radio Free Asia was told by one of the would-be visitors, who described herself as an “ordinary citizen.” She added: “There were eight or nine state security agents stationed outside when we arrived, but they summoned reinforcements.”

Foreign journalists were also prevented from approaching the foot of the apartment block the same day, but they were able to interview members of the group of petition signatories who tried to visit Zeng.

It has been reported that Hu’s father obtained permission to see him the day after he was formally charged. When a journalist reached his mother by telephone, she said she preferred not to talk about the case, which she described as “very complicated.”

Zhai Minglei, a friend of Hu and the editor of Civil Society, a magazine that was censored in November, has written an article for the website Boxun criticising the lack of transparency in the case. The blog that Zhai began on Bokedaba to relay information about Hu’s case was closed down by the Shanghai authorities at the end of January, after it had been going for one month.

22 February
Zeng Jinyan was interviewed by Radio Free Asia yesterday. She said that to her surprise she was able to visit her husband on 17 February and, thanks to the return of her mobile phone, was able to reestablish contact with the outside world. Human rights lawyer Teng Biao said the international support for Hu Jia and his family appeared to have persuaded the Chinese authorities to relax the measures that were keeping Hu and Zeng isolated. Hu’s lawyer, Li Fangping, yesterday said he was baffled by the way Hu’s trial was to be conducted. “It would seem that we will have to await the verdict before having access to the documents and evidence in the case file,” he said.

04 April
Hu Jia has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison on a charge of "inciting subversion of state authority" for posting articles about the human rights situation in the run-up to the Olympic Games on overseas Chinese websites such as Boxun.

An intermediate people’s court in Beijing handed down the sentence just four months before the start of the Olympics. Hu’s friends and family say the guilty verdict and sentence were unfair while the official media are reporting that a dissident was convicted of a "crime."

15 April
Hu Jia has been prevented from appealing against his sentence. One of his lawyers, Li Fangping, was refused permission to see him yesterday, 10 days after the sentence was passed. The authorities said he was undergoing “a medical examination prior to entering prison.” Li was again refused permission to see him today on the grounds that the deadline for filing an appeal had already expired.

Li wanted to give him official documents related to his appeal which he urgently needs to sign. But the guards refused, without giving any reason. Hu has not been allowed to take any telephone calls and his family is very worried about his state of health.

21 April
The city of Paris today made Chinese dissident Hu Jia an honorary citizen, along with the Dalai Lama.

4 May
Imprisoned activist Hu Jia was able to receive a visit from his elder sister, his mother and his wife, Zeng Jinyan, for half an hour. They were given only a few hours warning that the visit was going to take place. He told them he was going to be transferred to another prison.

Hu is a Buddhist and a vegetarian, which means the only things he can eat in the prison are bread and groats. Despite the monotony of prison life and the infrequency with which he is allowed outdoors, Hu’s morale seemed better than during previous visits. When asked by his sister how he felt about his prison sentence, he replied that it was “inevitable.” Zeng told him about the support he is receiving from his friends and colleagues. She said he told her: “You must seek complete freedom in order to live with dignity.”

15 May
Hu Jia’s family said he had been transferred on 8 May to Hubai prison, in Tianjin (200 km east of Beijing), and his treatment for hepatitis stopped for a week. Security agents meanwhile returned blogger Zeng Jinyan’s credit card, bank passbook and other seized items.

HE The Chinese Ambassador

Dear Mr. Ambassador,

I would like to draw your attention to the case of Hu Jia, who was sentenced to three and a half years in prison on 3 April 2008. To our knowledge, this Internet user and activist did nothing but exercise his right to inform, which is guaranteed by article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I therefore urge you to ask your government to release him immediately.


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