By AUDRA ANG – 2 days ago
BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities have curbed visits to an imprisoned dissident who was awarded the European Parliament’s top human rights award, his wife said.
Zeng Jinyan said she was told of the restriction during a telephone call Thursday from the Beijing Municipal Prison, where her husband, Hu Jia, is being held on a sedition charge.
“State security police told the prison to cancel my visit that had been scheduled for next Monday,” Zeng said in an online posting. “No one is allowed to see him.”
No reason was given for the change of plans, she said.
A man who answered the telephone at the prison said he was “unclear” about Hu’s case and his visiting hours. Like many Chinese officials, he refused to give his name.
The move comes a day after Hu was honored in Strasbourg, France, as the winner of this year’s 50,000 euro ($72,000) Sakharov Prize.
Because Hu, 35, is in prison, his name was placed in front of an empty seat. He received a minute-long standing ovation from the parliament.
Initially an advocate for the rights of HIV/AIDS patients, Hu expanded his focus to cover other human rights issues, using the Internet and telephone to publicize the harassment and arrests of other dissidents.
Hu’s charge of sedition stems from police accusations that he had planned to work with foreigners to disturb the Olympic Games in August.
The award signals the EU assembly’s dismay with what it sees as the authoritarian and repressive nature of the Chinese government. Beijing, however, sees the prize as interference and support for someone it considers a criminal.
Zeng said she hopes to use the prize money to start a foundation to support the families of other activists.
She said the idea had been a longtime wish of Hu, who meticulously chronicled the harassment of activists and their loved ones by authorities in China before being sentenced in April to a 3 1/2-year prison term.
“He has often said he would like to set up a support network … to provide moral support for the families, to ease their mental and life pressures so that they can be strong enough to face the pressure from authorities,” Zeng said in a video message played during Wednesday’s award ceremony.
It was one of the rare occasions she has been publicly seen since Hu’s arrest.
It’s not immediately clear how Zeng will go about setting up the support group. She has been under strict surveillance since Hu was whisked away by security agents who swarmed the couple’s apartment in the “Freedom City” complex on Dec. 27, 2007.
Her phone is monitored and often disconnected. Plainclothes security agents dog her movements.
Zeng, a waiflike 25-year-old with a heart condition, has herself become a fierce human rights advocate, using her blog to bring attention to abuses. In 2007, she was named by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.
On the Net:
* European Parliament’s news page: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/public/default_en.htm