Home Page > News Item > CHINA: Activist and dissident writer Hu Jia sentenced to three and a half years in prison; health concerns

7 April 2008
Update 1 to RAN 01/08

The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN is shocked by the conviction of activist and dissident Hu Jia, who was handed down a three-and-a-half year sentence on 3 April 2008 for ‘inciting subversion of state power’ for his critical writings and dissident activities. Hu suffers from poor health, and PEN seeks assurances of his well-being as a matter of urgency. International PEN considers Hu Jia to be held solely for peacefully exercising his right to free expression which is protected under Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution and Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory. PEN therefore calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

According to PEN’s information, leading Beijing-based human rights activist and freelance reporter Hu Jia was arrested from his home by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau on 27 December 2007 and tried on 18 March 2008 at the Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court. He was sentenced on 3 April 2008 to three-and-a-half years in prison on subversion charges for his critical online articles and dissident activities. He has decided not to appeal his sentence. According to his lawyer, evidence presented against him in court included five articles published on banned overseas Chinese websites and two interviews given to the foreign media. He is also believed to be targeted for an open letter he signed, “The Real China Before the Olympics,” which demanded an end to human rights abuses in the run-up to the Olympic Games to be held in Beijing in August 2008. His arrest appears to be part of a crackdown on dissidents in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics.

Hu, aged 34, was placed under residential surveillance on 18 May 2007 with his wife Zeng Jinyan for making a documentary film “Prisoners of Freedom City” about their shared life of harassment and surveillance (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4q_rcsoWFRk). In spite of this he continued his dissident activities, reporting on human rights abuses and publishing online articles, until his arrest in December 2007. Hu is known for his activities on environmental and AIDS issues, and was briefly detained in February 2006.

Hu Jia is held at the Beijing Municipal Detention Centre, and there are fears for his health. Hu Jia suffers from long-term health problems including cirrhosis of the liver, and there are fears that his condition could seriously deteriorate in prison. Hu Jia’s family have also been subjected to harassment and severe restrictions of movement since his arrest, and there are serious concerns for his wife Zeng Jingyan, who has a four-month-old baby and has been under effective house arrest since Hu’s detention. Her case was featured in INternational PEN’s campaign to mark this year’s International Women’s Day (8 March).