Chinese dissident out of jail

Chinese dissident out of jail

Activist Hu Jia was held on subversion charges

Free finally: Zeng Jinyan, the wife of jailed Chinese dissident and AIDS activist Hu Jia, holds a photo of the couple during an interview in Beijing in this December 1, 2010, file photo. Reuters

Hu, 37, was convicted in 2008 for “inciting subversion of state power” for criticising human rights restrictions in China, and was seen by some supporters as a potential recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize before it went to another jailed Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo, last year.

“He is back home with his parents and me,” his wife Zeng Jinyan said in a brief telephone interview.

“I don’t know if he can speak later. At the moment, I want everything to be peaceful. I’m worried that doing interviews at this stage might cause problems. Please understand.”
Hu’s long-scheduled release followed this week’s abrupt freeing from detention of the prominent artist and activist Ai Weiwei, and has come while Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is visiting Europe on trips to Hungary, Britain and Germany.

Asked how Hu’s health was, his mother, Feng Juan, said by telephone: “It’s so so. He was in a very good mood. The first thing he did after coming home was to take a bath. Then he had a meal.”

China’s Communist Party has cracked down on dissent since February, responding to fears that uprisings across the Arab world could also inspire challenges to its one-party rule, especially ahead of a leadership succession late in 2012.

Many dissidents detained in that drive have been ordered by authorities to stay silent after their release. Hu’s wife, Zeng, and other advocates have voiced concern that Chinese authorities might also impose restrictions on him amounting to house arrest after his formal release. Zeng, a prominent activist in her own right, said in late May that she was worried by the trend of rights activists coming under informal house arrest after their release from formal detention or jail.

“If we are put under house arrest or disappear, I don’t want our daughter to be with us when we endure life under house arrest,” she said. “I have sent her to be with my relatives.”

Zeng posted messages on Twitter, the micro-blogging site, describing harassment from authorities before Hu’s release.

“A prohibition on contact with the media was a condition of Hu Jia’s sentence, with the one year’s deprivation of political rights on his release, and no doubt the authorities will remind him of that,” said Phelim Kine, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group that has denounced the conviction of Hu and other Chinese dissidents. “Given the current climate of oppression, he will be under extreme pressure to obey,” Kine said.

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