Prisoners in Freedom City

Prisoners in Freedom City

I’ve been wondering when someone would post Prisoners in Freedom City on Youtube. Now someone finally has. It’s Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan’s documentary, filmed in 2006, about his house arrest and her being constantly tailed. They turned the tables on the state, filming the very people who were watching over them.

Here’s Part 1.

The rest is here. It’s best played full-screen if you want to read the subtitles.

I’ve known about the film since early last year, but hadn’t seen more than a short clip until today. Would it be on Youtube now if Hu Jia had not been arrested in December? No. So who is to blame for making Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan even more famous and state security seem all the more absurd? Is this what the state wants right now, this year? If Hu Jia hadn’t been under house arrest, this film would never have been made. If he hadn’t been arrested, there wouldn’t be a growing campaign to free him. Terrible publicity in a year when good publicity is more important than ever for the government. Hu Jia would be an annoyance to the state if he were free. He’s more than that in prison. It all would have been so much simpler if he had just been left alone – left to do what Hu Jia does. Hardly anyone would have heard about him or his wife.

I met Hu Jia five years ago. I don’t know him, but that day was enough for me to like him a lot. He was gentle, caring and deeply committed. I saw him again a couple of years later at a small fundraising event for AIDS orphans. He was happily snapping away with his camera and chatting with Gao Yaojie. Doing what Hu Jia does.

Every country has people like Hu Jia. Every country needs people like Hu Jia. They might be irritating to governments, but dangerous? Hu Jia used to be known in China for his environmental work. He was as passionate about that as he is about every issue he campaigns tirelessly for. No one knew about him outside of China. Why on Earth would the state want to make this tiny little guy into something so big? The more it cracks down on him, the bigger he gets.

There are a number of appeals people can sign or write if they want to do something for Hu Jia. Here’s one. Another I’ve just seen is by English PEN. And Amnesty International have an Urgent Action (PDF).

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