The fourth anniversary of Hu Jia’s imprisonment

Not counting in the one time in 2002 when Hu Jia was detained by the police while interviewing AIDS village inhabitants/villagers, he will have been under various forms of imprisonment for exactly four years on 3 April 2008.  His imprisonment during these four years took various forms. There was the ‘avowed imprisonment:’ on 27 December 2007, Hu Jia was detained in a Beijing police station. On 8 and 9 September 2006 and on 18 May 2007 he was subpoenaed by the Public security bureau to come to the Zhongcang police station of Beijing’s Tongzhou district for lengthy questionings.    

Then there were the ‘grey’ and the ‘black imprisonment.’ These were forms of police detention which were never avowed. The common characteristics of these two forms were: The plainclothes police had no regard for anything, they would just suddenly grab Hu Jia and bundle him into a vehicle. Sometimes they also put a black hood over his head. Then they would take him to a ‘small black chamber’ that had been prepared in advance (generally, it was a basement room or a room with closely drawn curtains in a hotel). Then they would ‘persuade and educate’ him, or they would use foul and insulting language to taunt and abuse him; or they would beat and kick him. They would even use leather belts to tie him up, and sit upon his body. This kind of imprisonment lasted for one or two days at least, and for 41 days the longest. It happened so often that I cannot clearly remember now how many times it was. For these ‘grey’ and ‘black’ imprisonments, the police not only failed go through any formal procedures, they also never acknowledged that they had happened afterwards. The memory of these things is so painful that I made a conscious effort to forget them. Now I can only list a few times of ‘grey imprisonment’ and ‘black imprisonment’ that are still clear in my memory: In 2004, these happened on 3, 4, and 5 April and 13, 14 and 15 April (in between they released him once); 22 May-6 June (at that time he was first put under house arrest at his home, then taken away and locked up in a basement room of a hotel); in 2005: 28 April – 4 May; after Hu Jia moved from Beijing Chaoyang district to Tongzhou district on 2 July, he ‘disappeared’ a number of times for brief periods – we will only be able to make a detailed account later – ; in November, during a scheduled AIDS prevention workshop in Zhengzhou, Hu Jia was taken away by the police but then he avoided the ‘black chamber’ thanks to the intervention by a high official in the Ministry of Health and was instead taken hostage by the police and escorted to various locations such as Luoyang, and other places, to ‘visit’ model AIDS prevention places. In 2006, he was abducted by the police and secretly detained by them for 41 days from 16 February until 28 March.  

The third kind is ‘home imprisonment’ (or “house arrest”). Simply speaking, it meant that on going out in the morning, he would suddenly be stopped from leaving home by some plainclothes police officers and security personnel. There were no legal procedures whatsoever. All they would say was, ‘today the leadership has decided that you can’t go out.’ Day in day out it would be like this and we had no idea when it would stop. It was no use to argue with them on the basis of reason or law; nor to try and force his way; Hu Jia never managed to get out. These periods of house arrest became longer each time. For details you may watch our documentary ‘Prisoners in Freedom

The fourth kind was ‘the mobile cage’ and ‘wrongful imprisonment by association.’ Whether it was while doing research in  Henan province, or while attending a funeral for a deceased AIDS patient, or when hiding out in Zhengzhou to evade illegal detention around June Fourth, or simply while accompanying me on family visits to Fujian, or on – sensitive or even just normal – days in Beijing, we were openly and brazenly followed by state security squad police in several cars (usually, two cars, sometimes also motorbikes, etc) so that ‘if it became necessary’ they could at any time detain him without following any legal procedures. As his wife, I became implicated as well and often lost my freedom together with Hu Jia. A few old and close friends were also subjected to such groundless implications and occasionally lost their freedom.  

According to incomplete statistics, Hu Jia was not free on 126 days in 2005, on 214 days in 2006, on 226 days in 2007; and in 2008 he has not been free until now.  What is the real reason for this? Hu Jia is merely an honest and straightforward young man who spoke some truths and was fearless and uncompromising. He is a Buddhist who wouldn’t kill an ant, a vegetarian who loves to protect the environment and save life, and who made it his business to plead on behalf of ordinary people. He not only does not do any harm to society; he can even be said to have made some small contributions to the society. Yet now he is accused of ‘inciting state subversion’ because he wrote a few essays and gave interviews to foreign journalists. My heart tightens with anxiety and I do not know what the outcome will be.  His maternal grandfather, who has already passed away, was sent to labour camp because he had graduated from Tokyo Imperial University, worked as a government official under the Kuomintang and adhered to the Tibetan Buddhism, etc. Until the early 1980s he remained labeled as a ‘currently active counterrevolutionary.’ His grandfather’s children also suffered the misery of imprisonment during the campaign against the ‘stinking ninth [category of reprehensible social elements = intellectual].’ They are currently not willing to talk much about it. His now eighty-year-old paternal uncle was sentenced as a criminal after the ‘eradication of counterrevolutionaries’ began in 1955, and had to do forced labour for 25 years. The basic reason for this was also that he wanted justice and dared to speak out. His parents, now in their seventies, were still university students in 1957. They were branded as ‘rightists’ for some things they had said, sent down into the countryside and made to do forced labour for 22 years.   As of now, Hu Jia remains imprisoned in the police detention centre. His wife and daughter have no real freedom either.

We are just normal people. We often experience fear; and our hope is simply to be reunited and happy in the future; it is simply that there will be some daily progress in society. Hu Jia’s health was already so severely and irrevocably damaged during his 41 days of imprisonment that all we can do now is to prevent it from getting worse. If he is convicted that will make it even worse for his family and for his health. And it will also be a tragedy for our society. If these old methods of repression continue to be used against those who merely have a social conscience, against honest and straightforward young people, then it will be a loss not just for a few families like ours but for the whole society. For who will then still be willing to – who will still dare to take responsibility for China’s future?


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