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China - Europe 17 December 2008

Hu Jia’s wife sends message of “hope for an open China” to European parliament

Zeng Jinyan, the wife of jailed human rights activist Hu Jia, thanked European parliamentarians for their support in a video message played today to a plenary session of the European parliament during the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought award ceremony. Hu is this year’s winner of the prize, awarded by the European Parliament.

“I would like to thank our European Parliament friends from the bottom of my heart,” Zeng said with great emotion. “The European Parliament has from the outset taken an interest in Hu Jia’s case and has deployed considerable efforts on behalf of freedom for Hu Jia and other Chinese human rights activists, efforts that demand respect.”

Unable to travel to Strasbourg to receive the award on Hu’s behalf because the authorities confiscated her passport, Zeng provided a great deal of information about Hu’s current situation in her video message.

“The good news is that Hu Jia was transferred on 10 October (...) to the Beijing municipal prison, and that the conditions in which he is being held have improved,” Zeng said. “As for his health, he is looking a little better (...) However, he had two blood tests in the space of a month and we don’t know what the results were. Although we asked for them, the results of the tests have not been given to the family. This behaviour worries us. It makes us fear that his cirrhosis has got worse.”

A blogger herself, Zeng paid tribute to activists like her husband who try to improve freedom of expression. “There are now a great many exceptional people and people of goodwill in Chinese society who are going to great lengths to find ways to make the real situation in China known, and to express deeply-felt views, and the Internet is providing them with a very interesting platform. But unfortunately there is sometimes a very high price to be paid for this.”

Zeng also talked about their young daughter, who lives with her under a form of house arrest.  “Our child is now just one year old. This is a key period in her life but Hu Jia is not able to be at her side. It is very difficult for me to talk about this.” She nonetheless insisted that she was “full of hope of soon being able to hail the arrival of an open China.”

The decision to award this year’s prize to Hu was announced by European Parliament president Hans Gert Pöttering on 23 October, a day after he received a letter from the Chinese ambassador to Brussels warning of negative consequences for the European Union’s relations with China.

“If the European Parliament should award this prize to Hu Jia, that would inevitably hurt the Chinese people once again and bring serious damage to China-EU relations,” the ambassador wrote in his letter.

Aged 35, Hu was arrested on 27 December 2007 on a charge of “inciting subversion of state authority,” Hu was tried on 18 March before a Beijing intermediate court for posting information about matters of state on websites based abroad. The court sentenced him on 3 April 2008 to three and a half years in prison.

A humanitarian activist since the start of the 1990s, Hu was involved not only in HIV prevention and helping HIV/AIDS sufferers, but also in protecting the environment and defending prisoners of conscience. He used the Internet, especially his blog and videos, to expose the regime’s repression of those who defend human rights.

He has not been getting the medicine he needs for a liver ailment and has been punished several times for defending the rights of fellow inmates.

He was arrested and held incommunicado for 40 days in the spring of 2006 and, on his release, he was placed under house arrest. Police stationed around the couple’s apartment building prevented him from going out while his wife, Zeng, was followed whenever she left the apartment.

Hu and Zeng were awarded the Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France special “China” prize in December 2007. Time magazine named Zeng as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2007.

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