Chinese dissident’s wife welcomes international support

Asia-Pacific News

Dec 17, 2008, 9:52 GMT

Beijing – The wife of jailed Chinese dissident Hu Jia welcomed international support for the couple on Wednesday, as the European Parliament prepared to award its top human rights prize to him in absentia.

‘It is not only for us, it is also for all Chinese human rights defenders,’ Zeng Jinyan told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

‘It is important, it makes us feel warm and encouraged,’ she said of the international support, in a written interview via internet, which is normally the only way she can communicate with foreign journalists without police interference.

Zeng, 25, said Chinese police had talked to her about Wednesday’s award of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Hu.

She said police warned her that European officials would not be allowed to visit her suburban Beijing apartment, where she has been under virtual house arrest since Hu’s arrest a year ago.

They also questioned her about putting her name to ‘Charter ’08,’ an appeal for democratic reform issued last week by more than 300 dissidents, activists and intellectuals.

Beijing police have formally arrested Liu Xiaobo, a veteran dissident writer who is believed to be accused of organizing the charter, and have questioned or detained many other signatories, according to lawyers and rights groups.

Police asked Zeng if she had considered the consequences of signing the charter for her and Hu, she said.

Hu, 35, began his activism in the late 1990s when the economics graduate volunteered to work on environmental projects.

In 2001, he began helping villagers infected with HIV/AIDS through blood-selling schemes in the central province of Henan, and gained international recognition and several awards.

He spent most of the two years prior to his arrest under some form of detention, but international attention increased as he acted as an information conduit for petitioners and rights activists while confined to his apartment.

Zeng on Wednesday said she thought the international focus on the couple was ‘partly because we use blogs and the internet more often than the other (rights) defenders.’

‘The other reason is that, I think, because AIDS, environmental protection and human rights in China are urgent issues,’ she said.

Despite the jailing of Hu, her own house arrest and the crackdown on the signatories of ‘Charter ’08,’ Zeng said she remained optimistic about the future direction of the rights movement in China.

‘There are some difficulties, but ultimately I’m still optimistic,’ she said.

Hu and Zeng testified by telephone to a European Parliamentary hearing on China’s human rights record in November 2007.

China ignored appeals from the European Union, the United States and rights groups for Hu’s release, sentencing him to three and a half years in prison in March for ‘inciting subversion of state power.’

The couple are both practicing Tibetan Buddhists and Zeng had a personal audience with the Dalai Lama during a trip to India in 2006.

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