Hu Jia (photo, from 20minutes), 34, is a Chinese prominent activist who has been convicted of “inciting subversion of state power and the socialist system”, said Li Fangping, his lawyer. The sentence is three-and-a-half years in jail.
Hu Jia has long campaigned for the environment, religious freedom and the rights of people with HIV and Aids.
A day before his sentence, a rights group accused China of a campaign to silence dissent ahead of the Olympics. And Mr Hu’s sentence arrived only two weeks after Yang Chunlin, another activist, was jailed on similar charges.
A spokesman for the US embassy in Beijing said the US was “dismayed” by the verdict, while the European Union called for Hu Jia’s immediate release.
Whether it came from rights groups or Western diplomats, Mr Jia’s case has attracted a lot of international attention. Before being arrested late last year, he has been an outspoken critic of China’s record regarding a variety of human rights issues. He passed informations on to journalists, organisations and foreign embassies.
Those informations where used against him in court. His lawyer said that among the evidences used, there were interviews he gave to foreign media and political articles that he wrote for the internet.
Wave of repression
“As lawyers we propose that Hu Jia appeals this sentence but it is up to him and we will wait for his decision”, said Mr Li. “We have not had a chance to exchange ideas with him so far”.
Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency, said that the court had been lenient with Hu Jia, as he had admitted his crimes. Quoting the court ruling, the agency said “Hu spread malicious rumours, libel and instigation in an attempt to subvert the state’s political and socialist systems.”
On Wednesday, UK-based rights group Amnesty International accused Beijing of carrying out a “wave of repression” ahead of the Olympic Games.
The group said that Chinese authorities were targetting the people who criticised the government, in order to present a stable and harmonious image of the country when the Games began in August.
The response came from the China Society for Human Rights Studies, which accused Amnesty of being bias and of ignoring positive developments in the country’s human rights record.
Last month, Wen Jiabao, Chinese Premier, said that Hu Jia’s case should be handled according to the law. “As for critics’ view that China is trying to increase its efforts to arrest dissidents ahead the Olympic Games, I think all these accusations are unfounded”, he said.
I believe it is obvious now, that whoever said having the Olympic Games in China would force them to improve on the Human Rights part, was wrong. With medias from all over the world pointed at his country, the Chinese government can’t leave the activists in peace, as they would tell the world about the situation in China. And if people are still prevented from talking about their life, it means the situation hasn’t improved.