China jails human rights activist Hu Jia in pre-Olympics clean-up

Chinese human rights activist and dissident Hu Jia is jailed by China before the Beijing Olympics 2008.

5 April, 2008

Hu Jia, chinese AIDS activits and dissident

In its continuing clampdown on dissidence ahead of the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government has imprisoned one of the country’s most prominent human rights activists.

Hu Jia, 34, was awarded a jail term for three and a half years for inciting subversion by writing online articles and essays about the Communist Party's right to rule.

The sentence also forbids Hu to make any public political statements for one year after his release from prison.

China’s official news agency Xinhua reported that Hu had confessed to the charges. The court verdict, Xinhua said, stated that “Hu spread malicious rumors and committed libel in an attempt to subvert the state’s political power and socialist system.”

Hu Jia has 10 days, starting April 4, 2008, to decide whether to appeal, but his lawyer was quoted as saying that an appeal is highly unlikely to give Hu any relief.

The Chinese government jailed Hu – who has been under house arrest in Beijing since December 27, 2007 – ignoring requests from governments in several countries to show some leniency in the months leading up to the Olympics, to be held in August 2008.

China is already facing global concern and criticism over its high-handed handling of the Tibetan crisis.

Hu Jia, who started out as an anti-AIDS activist, went on to become an outspoken critic of China’s communist government by raising a wide variety of issues, including advocating greater autonomy for the Chinese-occupied Tibet.

In Bucharest, capital of Romania, where United States President George W Bush was attending NATO meetings, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice condemned the imprisonment of Hu Jia, ABC television reported. The United States, she added, would continue to raise the issue of human rights with Chinese leaders in the months leading up to the Olympics.

Hu Jia’s wife Zeng Jinyan, herself a human rights advocate and a well-known blogger, was quoted by New York Times as saying in an interview over telephone: “I feel hopeless and helpless.”

Asked why Hu Jia was arrested and convicted, Zeng, who is currently under house arrest along with the couple’s infant daughter in their apartment in suburban Beijing, replied: “The fundamental reason is to silence him. He had been speaking up and all he said was plain truth. It makes them unhappy. But can they do this to him because they’re unhappy?”

Earlier in 2008, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had raised Hu’s case during a meeting with China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.



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