Authorities Release Prominent Rights Advocate Hu Jia Upon Completion of His Sentence

July 1, 2011

On June 26, 2011, authorities released Hu Jia from prison upon completion of his three-and-a-half year sentence. Hu has been an active advocate on issues including environmental protection, HIV/AIDS, and freedom of expression and movement. He has also expressed public support for rights defenders, including Chen Guangcheng and Guo Feixiong. He was sentenced in 2008 for "inciting subversion of state power." During his time in prison, authorities refused multiple requests for his medical parole. Hu is now home with his wife, Zeng Jinyan, in Beijing and reportedly remains under tight official surveillance.

Hu Jia's Release

Authorities released Hu Jia into the care of his wife, Zeng Jinyan, in the early morning of June 26, 2011, according a New York Times report (26 June 11). On her Twitter page, Zeng Jinyan reported that they would not be able to receive visitors, indicating that numerous security vehicles were stationed outside their home in Beijing. Zeng said that she had returned to Beijing on June 19 after her landlord, citing unidentified pressure, served her a notice of eviction from her apartment in Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. According to Zeng, eight security personnel escorted her from the Beijing airport.

Prior Advocacy Efforts and Official Harassment

Hu Jia has been an outspoken advocate on a number of issues including environmental protection and HIV/AIDs. He has also criticized the official mistreatment of other rights defenders including legal advocates Guo Feixiong and Chen Guangcheng. According to the New York Times report, Hu was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize while he was in detention in 2007. When he was in prison in 2008, the European Parliament awarded Hu the Sakaharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. In an effort to control his advocacy efforts authorities harassed, beat, and detained Hu and held him, his wife, and their young daughter in unlawful home confinement on multiple occasions and for varying periods of time since 2005.

  • In August 2005, Hu reported that authorities beat him and placed him under house arrest during visits by top United Nations and European Union officials.
  • In November 2005, authorities reportedly detained Hu when he attempted to deliver a petition to Vice Premier Wu Yi at an AIDS conference in Henan province.
  • In January 2006, authorities placed Hu under surveillance and house arrest and then "disappeared" him until March 28.
  • Starting in July 2006, authorities held Hu and Zeng Jinyan under house arrest for at least six months. The couple documented the tight surveillance measures in a home video distributed widely on the Internet.
  • In May 2007, authorities again placed Hu and Zeng under house arrest following their attempt to leave the country, as documented in a May 21, 2007, Human Rights Watch report.
  • While Hu remained in official custody, authorities continued to subject Zeng and their young daughter to ongoing surveillance and periodic home confinement, in addition to physically harassing and "disappearing" Zeng while Hu remained in official custody, according to Zeng's blog, in addition to reports from Global Voices Advocacy (1 June 08), Chinese Human Rights Defenders (9 August 08), Telegraph (21 February 09), and Agence France-Presse (via Google, 19 November 09, 9 December 10).

Hu Jia's Imprisonment

Authorities detained Hu Jia in December 2007 on suspicion of "inciting subversion of state power," a crime under Article 105 of China's Criminal Law. His detention came after he co-wrote a letter titled "The Real China Before the Olympics" (Chinese, English), criticizing the Chinese government for failing to live up to its promise to improve human rights for the Olympics. The detention also followed Hu's testimony via conference call before the European Parliament. Authorities formally arrested Hu in January 2008, and tried him in March 2008 in a trial reportedly marred by criminal procedure violations. On April 3, 2008, authorities sentenced Hu to three and a half years' imprisonment and one year deprivation of political rights for "inciting subversion." While in prison, Hu continued to suffer from a previously contracted case of liver cirrhosis. Despite his family's expressed concerns in 2008 about Hu's medical condition, authorities continued to hold Hu for the full period of his sentence.

For more information on China's imprisonment of rights defenders and online critics, see the CECC 2010 Annual Report and online Political Prisoner Database.