Visits to jailed China activist curbed after award

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.
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* European Parliament’s news page:


China’s Human-Rights Activists Need Support



In January 1977, a group of Czechoslovak citizens, of which I was privileged to be one, released Charter 77. That document was our call for the better protection of basic civil and political rights by the state. It was also the articulation of our belief that, as citizens, we had a certain responsibility to work with the Czechoslovak government to ensure through our vigilance that basic rights would be protected.

With the release of Charter 77, we wanted to create not a membership organization, but instead, as I wrote then, “a free, informal open community of people of different convictions, different faiths, and different professions united by the will to strive, individually and collectively, for the respect of civic and human rights in our own country and throughout the world.”

More than three decades later, in December 2008, a group of Chinese citizens has taken our modest effort as their model. They have made a similar call — for human rights, good governance and respect for the responsibility of citizens to keep watch over their government — to ensure that their state plays by the rules of a modern open society.

The document they have issued is an impressive one. In it, the authors of Charter 08 call for protection of basic rights, increased judicial independence, and legislative democracy. But they do not stop there. With the passage of time, we have come to realize that a free and open society means more than the protection of basic rights. To that end, the signatories of Charter 08 also wisely call for better environmental protection, a bridging of the rural-urban divide, better provision of social security, and a serious effort to reconcile with human-rights abuses committed in decades past.

The original signatories, who number more than 300, come from all walks of life, and from across China — a testament to the broad appeal of the ideas put forward in Charter 08. Among the signatories are China’s top minds from law, political science, economics, the arts and culture. Their decision to sign onto such a document was surely not taken lightly, and their words should not be so brusquely brushed aside. Since the Charter was released, more than 5,000 men and women have added their names to it.

China in 2008 is not Czechoslovakia in 1977. In many ways, China today is freer and more open than my own country of 30 years ago. And yet, the response of the Chinese authorities to Charter 08 in many ways parallels the Czechoslovak government’s response to Charter 77.


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.

Hu Jia’s wife sends message of “hope for an open China” to European parliament

Zeng Jinyan, the wife of jailed human rights activist Hu Jia, thanked European parliamentarians for their support in a video message played today to a plenary session of the European parliament during the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought award ceremony. Hu is this year’s winner of the prize, awarded by the European Parliament.

Sakharov Prize Award 08 – Hu Jia – Message from Zeng Jinyan
envoyé par rsf_internet

“I would like to thank our European Parliament friends from the bottom of my heart,” Zeng said with great emotion. “The European Parliament has from the outset taken an interest in Hu Jia’s case and has deployed considerable efforts on behalf of freedom for Hu Jia and other Chinese human rights activists, efforts that demand respect.”

Unable to travel to Strasbourg to receive the award on Hu’s behalf because the authorities confiscated her passport, Zeng provided a great deal of information about Hu’s current situation in her video message.

“The good news is that Hu Jia was transferred on 10 October (…) to the Beijing municipal prison, and that the conditions in which he is being held have improved,” Zeng said. “As for his health, he is looking a little better (…) However, he had two blood tests in the space of a month and we don’t know what the results were. Although we asked for them, the results of the tests have not been given to the family. This behaviour worries us. It makes us fear that his cirrhosis has got worse.”

A blogger herself, Zeng paid tribute to activists like her husband who try to improve freedom of expression. “There are now a great many exceptional people and people of goodwill in Chinese society who are going to great lengths to find ways to make the real situation in China known, and to express deeply-felt views, and the Internet is providing them with a very interesting platform. But unfortunately there is sometimes a very high price to be paid for this.”

Zeng also talked about their young daughter, who lives with her under a form of house arrest. “Our child is now just one year old. This is a key period in her life but Hu Jia is not able to be at her side. It is very difficult for me to talk about this.” She nonetheless insisted that she was “full of hope of soon being able to hail the arrival of an open China.”

The decision to award this year’s prize to Hu was announced by European Parliament president Hans Gert Pöttering on 23 October, a day after he received a letter from the Chinese ambassador to Brussels warning of negative consequences for the European Union’s relations with China.

“If the European Parliament should award this prize to Hu Jia, that would inevitably hurt the Chinese people once again and bring serious damage to China-EU relations,” the ambassador wrote in his letter.

Aged 35, Hu was arrested on 27 December 2007 on a charge of “inciting subversion of state authority,” Hu was tried on 18 March before a Beijing intermediate court for posting information about matters of state on websites based abroad. The court sentenced him on 3 April 2008 to three and a half years in prison.

A humanitarian activist since the start of the 1990s, Hu was involved not only in HIV prevention and helping HIV/AIDS sufferers, but also in protecting the environment and defending prisoners of conscience. He used the Internet, especially his blog and videos, to expose the regime’s repression of those who defend human rights.

He has not been getting the medicine he needs for a liver ailment and has been punished several times for defending the rights of fellow inmates.

He was arrested and held incommunicado for 40 days in the spring of 2006 and, on his release, he was placed under house arrest. Police stationed around the couple’s apartment building prevented him from going out while his wife, Zeng, was followed whenever she left the apartment.

Hu and Zeng were awarded the Reporters Without Borders – Fondation de France special “China” prize in December 2007. Time magazine named Zeng as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2007.

Statement from US Senate Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Statement from US Senate Speaker Nancy Pelosi

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the
following statement today on the European Parliament’s decision to award the
Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Hu Jia, a Chinese human rights
activist currently imprisoned by the Chinese government.

Since 1988, the Sakharov Prize has been awarded to individuals or
organizations for their efforts on behalf of human rights and fundamental
freedoms and against oppression and injustice. Past recipients of the prize
have included Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma.

“The announcement that Hu Jia has been awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom
of Thought is welcome news for all those who fight for freedom and human
rights in China and Tibet. In addition to advancing human rights, Hu has
diligently worked to raise awareness of the needs of AIDS patients and
environmental protection – issues the Chinese government must acknowledge. The
European Parliament is to be commended for its bold decision.

“Hu Jia is in prison for criticizing the Chinese government’s record on human
rights, most recently, his call on the international community to hold Beijing
responsible for its promises to improve these rights before the 2008 Summer
Olympics. He is risking his life, family and freedom so he can speak the
truth. I call on the Chinese government to immediately and unconditionally
release Hu Jia from prison and to respect the fundamental freedoms of all the
people in China.”
SOURCE Office of the Speaker of the House

Chinese Bloggers Win Big at Best of Blogs Awards

Chinese bloggers made a strong showing at this year’s The Best of Blogs awards (aka “The BOBs”), an international blog competition organized by German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle. According to the BOBs’ Web site, it claims to be the world’s largest international blog contest, with awards offered in 11 different language categories by both expert juries and public voting online.

Beijing lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan was awarded the jury prize for best Chinese blog. Liu, who was featured in an earlier WSJ story here, writes a widely read blog on legal and social issues of interest.

Zeng Jinyan, the wife of jailed human rights activist Hu Jia, shared the special jury award from Reporters Without Borders with 4equality, a Persian women’s rights blog from Iran. Zeng, who lives under house arrest in Beijing along with her one-year-old daughter, uses her blog to communicate her experiences of life under surveillance and to share information about her husband’s status.

A Chinese blog also took the people’s choice award for best overall blog. Science Guru, a popular group blog, covers scientific topics for a general audience. According to Xinhua (in Chinese), the blog was started by Ph.D. student Ji Xiaohua and about 20 friends earlier this year. By late July, Science Guru boasted over 80 frequent contributors

We sought out responses from Zeng Jinyan and Liu Xiaoyuan on their awards.

We were unable to reach Zeng by phone today, but on her blog, she touched on the award and her blogging within a post titled “Thanksgiving.” Below are some excerpts.

On receiving news of the award:

“Tonight [Nov. 27] at dusk, as I brought the baby in from the cold, I got a call from a Deutsche Welle staffer who said my blog had won this year’s special prize and asked how I felt. At the time my exhausted and slow brain didn’t respond, and I said I didn’t have any special feeling, but in fact I’m very happy.”

On her blogging beginnings:

“When I first started blogging in 2005, I never even considered the questions, ‘What is a blog? What is the purpose of a blog? What sort of impact can blogging have on my life?’ I just thought it would be fun after seeing a friend’s blog. So I started keeping an online diary, restricted to friends, where I could share my daily life and thinking, and we could comment and discuss with one another. I’ve been in the habit of keeping a diary since I was young. I didn’t write every day, but when I had some thoughts I’d write them down, or I’d write poetry, essays and strange stories. When I was in a bad mood, confiding in my diary would help me to relax and recover.”

On the development of her blog:

[After Hu Jia disappeared in February 2006], I began to feel very anxious, looking for Hu Jia everywhere, I recorded this experience on the blog. After about two months, I realized that by making the blog public, it would draw the attention of more people who could help in the search for Hu Jia. But at that time, I still didn’t understand the function of blogging, it was mainly like sticking to the old methods of writing a daily email to friends to tell them about the progress of the search for Hu Jia.

After Hu Jia returned from his 41-day disappearance, for a while I was at a loss about what to do with my blog… So I consulted with some elders, who gave me some very good ideas and encouraged me to continue writing.

In 2007, a friend told me that he didn’t want to read my blog anymore because it was full of depressing content… For a time, I also felt a heavy sense of weariness and took a pessimistic view of China’s human rights situation. But every time I see the suffering of rights defenders, petitioners and their families, every time I hear their appeals and pleas for help, I want the world to be able to hear their stories and [I want to] do my small part for the domestic rights movement.. In environments where the freedom of speech is restricted, blogs play an important and meaningful role.

Up to now, my views haven’t changed, in fact I am even more optimistic. Blogs can entirely become an independent media, as long as you persevere in speaking the truth, persevere in reporting the events that occur around you, and persevere in independent thinking.

from here

Zeng Jinyan: a Confession from the Prisoner at Freedom City

A Confession from the Prisoner at Freedom City

by Zeng Jinyan

The 22nd letter from Hu Jia has arrived. But the 19th and 21st letters have both been confiscated. Hu Jia finally received the diary that I wrote on behalf of our daughter Baobao, even though two of the pages had been torn off and confiscated. Hu Jia had almost refrained from talking about things that had happened in the prison. He mentioned briefly that he had influenza and a temperature, and therefore could only sit for one examination. During my visits and in our letters, we mostly talked about small details of our everyday lives, including the way in which our child is growing up. As soon as we started to talk about something else, our conversation would be terminated, or our letters confiscated.

Today I took Baobao to Grandma and Grandpa. In the afternoon, the state security wanted to have a chat with me. As soon as we met, I told them that I was tired and was on the verge of a breakdown. So if it was good news, they could go ahead and tell me. Otherwise they should not bother.

But the state security insisted on talking to me…

On the way home at the Si Hui Bus Station, I burst into tears over some trivial matters. I can’t remember the last time I cried. Perhaps it was on the day when Hu Jia was sentenced.

I was back at Freedom City in the evening. When I entered the courtyard, I caught sight of some plain-clothed police; they were watching me from a well-illuminated spot. There was also an ordinary infrared camera on the roof above the gate. Every time I raised my head I could feel the blood red colour of the light blinding my sight.

What I’m writing now can be used as a confession to the state security police. It’s also a confession I made to myself and to Hu Jia. When Hu Jia has a chance to read it in future, he will understand.

I will object to any plan to extend Hu Jia’s prison terms or to impose harsher penalties on him, even though I am aware that there is little I can do to reverse the decision. I would be most delighted if he would be released ahead of schedule, because I so much look forward to his return. We may not have carefully thought through the way we handle our work on environmental protection, on AIDS, and on human rights. We therefore welcome criticisms and suggestions. But we are not members of any military establishment or political party. And we are definitely not a part of any conspiracy. We are simply a couple of naive, unsophisticated and powerless individuals who are trying our best to give a hand to those who need help. We are not too concerned about whether we are making a huge impact; we are only helping one person at a time.

You want me to persuade Hu Jia to correct his thoughts, as a way to speed up his release and his return to society. How would I not want him to come home soon? It is just that I don’t have a chance to do so. Whenever I write to Hu Jia about what happens in society, my letter will be confiscated. What else can I do? I don’t have much to live for. I only struggle to stay alive for my child. If what you want is my life, then go ahead and take it, but leave me with my independent spirit and my free will. You are wrong if you think that you can solve your problems by taking away my independence and my will. For me, the simplest solution would be for you to end my life. I have no right to abandon my life; only the Divine can do that. Not all evil and wrongdoings in the world involve one life form taking away its own life or the lives of others; it is also wrong and evil to enslave others, be it physical or spiritual enslavement.

I am exhausted. I am far too busy looking after my child. She seems to have developed a deep sense of insecurity and is clinging to me so closely as if she is afraid that she may lose me if she let go. It is so bad that sometimes I can’t even enjoy a proper hot meal. I am suffering from severe back pain. My arms have no strength. I am not sleeping well and have become absent-minded … I can’t find the strength to respond to many things happening around me. So those of you with grievances against an organization, a person, or someone’s opinion, would have to go directly to them to have things sorted out. I have neither the power nor the right to demand others to say something or not to say something. Those who do good deeds; they will get praise. Those who do evil; they will sooner or later be condemned. This is a common practice everywhere in the world, including China. It goes without saying.

I have just read from Xinhua News that the Chinese government has decided to establish a national human rights action plan to map out the development of human rights in China for the next two years…

China will take United Nations Human Rights Council’s universal periodic review

Foreign ministry: Chinese government will continue to work for human rights

[Links in Ms Zeng’s post are all in Chinese.  China Digital Times has more details about China’s human rights action plan.]

There is nothing more basic than to respect human rights, to show concern for humanity and to honour the dignity of mankind. Do you dare to look on what you have done? What you have done to us – the misery and sufferings you have brought to us – has been done on the foundations of human rights abuse.

I’m invoking the Almighty Buddha to give me faith, to guide my trembling hands, to give me his mercy, to end my tears and sorrow, and to keep my feeble heart from losing hope.

from: zengjinyan