AIDS activist Hu Jia's wife Zeng Jinyan reports on her blog that he was dropped off by police yesterday outside a shopping center about an hour's walk from his home on the outskirts of Beijing. In the 41 days of his detention he had no idea what was happening in the outside world. She says he returned exhausted, witha long beard. She took him to the hospital for a checkup in the morning and they found liver problems he hasn't had before. More tests, treatment, and follow-up will be needed. Meanwhile Reuters spoke to Hu Jia and here is an exceprt of the story:
Security police took him from his home and held him without any legal formalities in two "vacation villages" on the eastern outskirts of Beijing, never informing his family of his whereabouts, Hu told Reuters.
Hu said he was unbroken by the experience, which he said included a month-long hunger-protest, roughing up, and sleepless nights. He said he plans to sue the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau for unlawful detention.
"I've always felt this life is like cat and mouse, but I'm the cat," he said. "They're breaking the law and they know it, and I'm going to sue them to show them and the world that people can defend their rights."
The circumstances of Hu Jia's detention are very similar to those of our Global Voices Northeast Asia editor Hao Wu, who has been held without charge or legal representation since February 22nd - that's 35 days now. (See recent AP and Reuters coverage here.) I am concerned that Hao's detention is equally bad for his health.
Despite some nay-sayers who think publicity is counterproductive, it would appear that publicity did help bring about Hu Jia's release. When working in China in the 1990's, I covered the jailings and releases of quite a number of Chinese people detained or sentenced for political reasons - some of whom considered themselves dissidents and some of whom did not, like Hao. In all cases, people reported that outside attention seemed to have resulted in better or at least more careful treatment of them physically, as compared to other prisoners whose cases were unknown to the outside world. In many cases people got released right before a major U.S.-China summit. As it so happens, President Hu Jintao is coming to the U.S. for a summit on April 20th.
Will the public campaign to win Hao Wu's release work? The timing might be right. Chinese President Hu Jintao will soon be visiting the U.S., a trip that was supposed to take place last September but was put off because of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe. The Chinese government very much wants this visit to go well, so the leaders might decide that letting a lone blogger go free in the lead up to the summit might be an easy way to score some points.
I hope he gets released before then. But if not perhaps Hao's case will become part of a resumed U.S.-China human rights dialogue.