In an article Hu Jia: China's enemy within, Clifford Coonan who interviewed the dissident last year during his house arrest, described Hu Jia:
He is best known in China for his work with Aids victims. A taboo subject until the current leadership decided to take steps to tackle the problem, the government's slowness, particularly at local level, to acknowledge the epidemic contributed to its spread. This was particularly true in Henan province in the 1990s, when millions of people sold blood to unsanitary clinics.
Constant surveillance by state police did not deter his blogging on an overseas website called Boxun. Insisting on free speech under the “proletariat dictatorship” is asking for trouble but that did not stop him from speaking out on Aids, Tibetan autonomy and embracing other causes that irks and makes him a thorn on the side of the Chinese communist Party.
Fearless is probably an understatement to describe Hu Jia, in a country where there is no rule of law but what is followed is the rule of the Communist Party. Under this scenario he still persist in embracing other cause such as that of activist lawyer Gao Zhisheng the recipient of the Chinese Liberal Culture Movement’s Special Human Rights Award, the Asia-Pacific Human Rights Foundation’s Human Rights Champion Award, the American Board of Trial Advocates’ Courageous Advocacy Award and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Gao Zhisheng is a Christian known for his tenacious pursuit of justice on behalf of China’s most vulnerable from exploited coal miners to democracy advocates, the poor, and victims of religious persecution. Gao was sentenced to imprisonment for his tenacious investigation detailing the torture of Falun Gong practitioners released in numerous open letters.
Another cause embraced by Hu Jia is that of the blind activist Chen Guangcheng, a 34-year-old peasant who has been blind since childhood, a minor celebrity in China for helping handicapped people won cases against government agencies that did not grant them the full protections and benefits they are afforded under Chinese law. A quote from the NY Times article on the events leading to Chen Guangcheng's incarceration:
But Shandong government officials turned bitterly against him in early 2005. It was then that he sought to defend thousands of local residents who were being forced to abort fetuses or submit to sterilization operations so that Linyi City, Shandong, could meet its population-control quotas.
Though central government investigators later concluded that abuses had occurred in enforcing population policies there, local authorities put Mr. Chen under house arrest for months and then charged him with destroying property and blocking traffic.
Mr. Chen’s plight attracted a team of the top human rights lawyers in the country. They argued that the charges against him were fabrications. The crimes would have been difficult, if not impossible, for Mr. Chen to commit, they said, given that he cannot see and that he was under constant police guard at the time they were said to have occurred.
But the lawyers were harassed, beaten and prevented from gathering evidence to support Mr. Chen in court, according to numerous people involved in his defense.
On the eve of Mr. Chen’s trial last week, three of his lawyers were accused by local thugs of stealing property. The lawyers were then detained by local police, and one of them was not released until after Mr. Chen’s trial had ended.
When his other lawyers complained to the court that the harassment made a mockery of the legal proceedings and called for a delay, the court appointed new defense lawyers for Mr. Chen and proceeded with the trial. The appointed defense lawyers did not contest any of the charges against Mr. Chen and did not call any witnesses on his behalf.
While the sentence is lighter than many in the human rights community feared, Mr Hu's conviction for criticising the Communist Party is likely to become a cause célèbre among rights activists, alongside the issue of Tibet, ahead of the Olympic Games. By formally jailing him, the authorities may have created a monster, a poster boy for the critics of the Communist Party's strict controls on dissent and protest.
Mr Hu, an amiable, slight figure, who suffers from hepatitis B, was carted off by state security police in late December after he had already spent more than 200 days under house arrest. He and his wife and their six-week-old daughter, Hu Qianci, were at home around Christmas time with Ms Zeng's grandmother when 20 policemen burst in, cut their telephone lines and internet connection and arrested Mr Hu. Ms Zeng and the baby remain under house arrest, and she left the courtroom yesterday visibly upset, before being taken home in a police van.
Speaking on the telephone recently, she told of how she was only allowed out a couple of times to take baby Qianci to the clinic for check-ups, but she wasn't allowed out to walk the child. Mr Hu's sister and parents were keeping them supplied. She was furious and frustrated at her plight. Both of them are proud that the Olympics are being hosted by Beijing, but they think the Games have been hijacked.
"These Games are for the Chinese Communist Party and they violate the basic human rights of Chinese people," she said.
Living under house arrest was difficult for an energetic figure such as Mr Hu, who spent so much of his time on the road defending the causes dear to his heart. The walls of his apartment are covered with still-life drawings, and a DVD boxed set of Friends on the coffee table bears testament to the tedium of imprisonment. In a basket on the table sat a pharmacy of medicines ranging from vitamins to kidney treatments.
During his confinement he kept a video diary, and one particularly affecting scene is of a police officer walking behind Ms Zeng, cruelly mimicking her walk and making ape-like gestures.
By nature a cheerful person, Mr Hu refuses to be bowed by his experiences and the events which have befallen his family. He doesn't look tough, but he has clearly learnt resilience from his parents. Although a Beijing native, his parents were declared "rightists" during the Mao era in the 1950s, and then were sent to the countryside in Hunan during the Cultural Revolution for re-education.
The jail sentences of human rights activist amidst the coming Beijing Olympics is a mockery of the condition for hosting the event. There are more cases of horrible human rights abuses committed in China that should be brought to the attention of the international community. If bloggers like Hu Jia and his wife is prevented from doing so the plight of the victims like Yan Chunlin will suffer in silence and alone in a world that has technology at their fingertips to speak on behalf of those silenced by institutionalized human rights abusers is just so ironic and sad. To learn more about Hu Jia here is a google translated "The Real China and the Olympics" Open letter by Chinese human rights activists Hu Jia and Teng Biao, the Hu Jia interview, and also there is the Committee to protect bloggers if one wants to help out.
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