Hu Jia

***To see more information about English PEN’s China Campaign 2008 click here***


Hu Jia is a leading Beijing-based human rights activist and freelance reporter, known in particular for his activities and writings on environmental and AIDS issues.

He was arrested from his home by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau on 27 December 2007. Though initially no official reason was given for his arrest, it was thought that it may have been due to his reports and commentaries concerning various social and human rights issues published online, including a letter entitled ‘The Real China and the Olympics’. 


Hu Jia was later officially charged for ‘inciting subversion of State power’, and his trial commenced in the Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court on Tuesday 18 March. Reports suggest that his lawyers were given only 20 minutes to deliver a defense during the 4-hour session, were prevented from interjecting at any other point in the proceedings, and that the charges against him are based on six articles and two press interviews by Hu. International observers and Hu’s family were barred from the courtroom and several of his supporters were temporarily detained on the 18th to prevent them speaking to the media. Dr. Teng Biao, a lawyer and member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center with whom Hu had collaborated on “The Real China and the Olympics” was detained an hour and a half before the trial began and held for more than eight hours. On 3 April 2008, Hu Jia was sentenced to three and a half years in prison and one year’s deprivation of political rights. He has decided not to appeal his sentence.

Hu Jia with his wife, Zheng Jingyan

PEN believes that this arrest, and others like it, suggest the Chinese Government is increasing its efforts to control  internal dissent – especially influential bloggers – in the lead up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Hu Jia himself had recently testified to the European Union (via webcam) that the Olympics were, in his view, a ‘human rights disaster’.

Hu Jia’s arrest came only days after the authorities detained several members of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre (a PEN centre whose members are largely in exile, but some of whom remain within China) and a fortnight after the detention of Wang Dejia, another well-known cyber-dissident and human rights advocate who had recently criticised the pre-Olympics human rights situation in his country.

Since his arrest, Hu Jia’s family has been subjected to harassment and severe restrictions of movement. There are serious concerns for his wife Zeng Jingyan who is now herself under effective house arrest, along with their daughter, who was one month old at the time of her father’s arrest. Their internet and phone lines have been cut off and a permanent police surveillance unit has been installed in an apartment above theirs, whilst Zheng’s mobile is being tapped. Chinese well-wishers and bloggers trying to deliver milk to Zeng and the baby were reportedly detained and questioned by police standing guard outside their home. A number of Hu Jia’s supporters – such as Independent Chinese PEN Centre member Li Jianhong – have also suffered restrictions on their movements and warnings against involvement in the case.

Hu Jia is currently being held at the Beijing Municipal Detention Centre. His parents and wife (though not his baby daughter) were permitted to visit him a few days later, on 10 February. They report him to be ‘tired and stressed’ but showing no signs of serious mistreatment. However, as Hu suffers from long-term health problems, including cirrhosis of the liver, there are fears that his condition could seriously deteriorate in prison if he is not given adequate medical attention.


Hu Jia was previously detained in February 2006 for 41 days. His detention was not acknowledged by the Chinese government. After his return to his apartment in Beijing, where he lives with his wife, Hu Jia was kept under house arrest until March 2007. Two months later, on 18 May 2007, Hu Jia and his wife were placed under residential surveillance just as they were about to set off on a tour of Europe to promote their documentary film Prisoners of Freedom City.

For an English translation of a post from Hu Jia’s blog, dated 29 November 2007, please click here.

For an open letter that Hu Jia and fellow dissident Teng Biao wrote in September 2007 called The Real China and the Olympics, translated by Human Rights Watch, please click here

Please send appeals:

– Expressing serious concerns about the detention and unfair trial of activist and dissident writer Hu Jia, and calling for his immediate and unconditional release;
– Expressing concern for his health, and requesting that he receive all necessary medical treatment;
– Protesting the reported harassment of Hu Jia’s family.

Appeals to:

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032

Procurator General Mr. Jia Chunwang
Supreme People’s Procuratorate
Beiheyan Street 147
100726 Beijing

Please note that fax numbers are no longer available for the Chinese authorities, so it may be more effective to forward appeals via the Chinese representative in London:
Her Excellency Mrs. Fu Ying
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
49-51 Portland Place
London W1B 4JL

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