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China 18 March 2008

Hu Jia’s trial called "parody of justice"

Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the way human rights activist Hu Jia was tried today on a charge of inciting subversion of state authority. The Beijing court did not issue a verdict at the end of a single hearing lasting just a few hours. The international community must react by continuing to demand his unconditional release and an end to the harassment of his family, the organisation said.

“Prime Minister Wen Jiabao vainly claimed today that dissidents are not repressed,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Hu Jia’s trial is a dramatic example of how the rule of law is flouted in China. International condemnation has failed to stop the steamroller that has been given orders to silence one of Beijing’s most courageous human rights activists.”

Hu’s trial was held the same day that Reporters Without Borders issued a call for a boycott of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

Hu’s friends and his wife, Zeng Jinyan, were not allowed to attend this morning’s trial before a Beijing people’s intermediate court. One of his lawyers, Li Fangping, was pessimistic when he left the court at the end of the hearing, saying his client faced the possibility of a five-year prison sentence.

Teng Biao and five other Beijing lawyers including Han Yicun, Li Xiongbin and Jiang Tianyong were prevented from going to the court on the day of Hu Jia’s trial. Teng spent the day surrounded by police officers. He could be reached by phone but said he was “not in a position to talk.” He later said Hu’s trial was conducted in an illegal manner because it should have been open to the public.

Although Li Xiongbin had been authorised to attend the trial, he was arrested on his arrival at the courthouse and was taken to the Babaoshan police station. When Jian and four other lawyers who are his friends tried to obtain his release, they were detained and handcuffed. Hu’s wife, Zeng Jinyan, and Hu’s father were prevented from entering the courtroom despite being designated defence witnesses. Accompanied by their baby girl, Zeng was able to talk to Hu for a few minutes after the trial.

Li Fangping told Agence France-Presse that the court was expected to issue its verdict later this week. “Since we are now trying to establish a harmonious society, we should allow different voices to be heard,” Li said. “We hope the government will become more tolerant.”

European diplomats and foreign reporters told Reporters Without Borders that they were prevented from attending the trial. “The court told me that the room was too small,” one journalist said. “Our requests were refused on the grounds that the courtroom was too small,” a Beijing-based European diplomat said.

The prosecution case focused on articles about the human rights situation in the run-up to the Olympics which Hu wrote for overseas Chinese websites such as Boxun, and on the interviews he gave to many foreign news media and embassies. Aged 34, Hu is a well-known activist on behalf of people with HIV and AIDS.

Hu has often written about other imprisoned activists such as Chen Guangcheng ( [1]) and Guo Feixong ( [2]) in articles for Boxun or in blog entries.

Asked about Hu’s case today, Premier Wen Jiabao denied that China was stepping up arrests of dissidents. “As for the individual case you have raised now, I want to make it very clear, China is a country under the rule of law and all those cases will be dealt with in accordance with the law,” Wen said.

Slovenia, the current holder of the European Union presidency, yesterday said the EU was “deeply concerned” about Hu’s continued detention.

Hu was at his Beijing home with Zeng and their then six-week-old daughter on 27 December when about 20 policemen burst in, disconnected their Internet connection and phone lines and left with Hu. He has been detained ever since.

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