Chinese human rights activist Hu Jia has been convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced to three and a half years inprison.
After months under house arrest, Hu Jia was detained on 27 December 2007. He was formally charged on 28 January 2008 and went on trial on18 March at the Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court.
"This verdict is punishment for Hu Jia’s public critiques of human rights violations in China and a warning to any other activists in China who dare to raise human rights concerns publicly,” said Amnesty International.
“It also makes a mockery of promises made by Chinese officials that human rights would improve in the run-up to the Olympics.”
Prior to his formal detention, Hu Jia had publicly expressed concerns over human rights abuses by police in Beijing, including the arrest of activists without the necessary legal procedures. This included the case of land rights activist Yang Chunlin and human rights defender Lu Gengsong, both also detained on subversion charges.
While detained, Hu has been subjected to 47 lengthy and repeated interrogations. He was denied access to his lawyer, members of his family and medical treatment, including necessary daily medication for liver disease resulting from a Hepatitis B infection. His wife, Zeng Jinyan, is still under house arrest with their newborn baby.
Amnesty International considers Hu Jia a prisoner of conscience and has demanded his immediate and unconditional release. The organization urges the International Olympic Committee and world leaders with a stake in the Olympics to publicly express their concern about his plight - and that of numerous other peaceful activists in China who have been silenced in the run-up to the Games. A failure to speak out would be a "conspiracy of silence" that will be perceived by the authorities as a tacit endorsement of such repression.
Hu started his activism as an AIDS activist in 2001. He is the co-founder of the Beijing Aizhixing Institute of Health Education and of Loving Source, a grassroots organization dedicated to helping children from AIDS families.
Due to his activities and outspokenness, Hu Jia was repeatedly harassed and beaten by police. According to his wife Zeng Jinyan: “Not counting one time in 2002, when Hu was detained by police while interviewing AIDS village inhabitants, he will have been under various forms of imprisonment for exactly four years on 3 April 2008.”
Hu’s focus broadened and he began reporting on wider human rights violations and giving interviews to foreign media. In November 2007, he participated via webcam in a European Union parliamentary hearing in Brussels in which he stated that China had failed to fulfill its promises to improve human rights in the run-up to the Olympics.
In an article on his blog dated 10 September 2007, Hu Jia says: "Everyone should know that the country that is about to host the Olympics is one without democratic elections, freedom of religion, independent courts or independent unions. It prohibits protests and labor strikes. It is a state that carries out widespread torture, discrimination, and employs a large secret police system. It is a nation that violates human rights standards and human dignity, and is not ready to fulfil its international obligations."
In a joint press conference with UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband in Beijing on 28 February 2008, China's foreign minister Yang Jiechi said: "No one will get arrested because he said that human rights are more important than the Olympics. This is impossible."
Amnesty International believes this verdict makes a mockery of the notion that Chinese citizens are free to hold opinions and to speak their mind without retribution from the authorities, and serves as a warning to other activists in China who might dare raise human rights concerns publicly.
What human rights legacy for the Beijing Olympics? (Report abstract, 2 April 2008)