Late last month, in between Christmas and New Year - which happens to be when the maximum number of foreign correspondents are on vacation - Hu Jia was arrested on charges of "subversion against the state." People close to him believe the charges are based on an article he co-authored in September titled "The Truth About China Before the Olympics." Hu's co-author told RFA last week that "Hu Jia wasn’t against the Olympics, but rather that he had called publicly for an improvement to Chinese society as a result of the Olympics." As John Kennedy recently wrote on Global Voices Online, his lawyers have been denied access to him.
Hu had been under tight surveillance ever since his first detention in early 2006. Hu has a blog, where he has been writing about the harassment and detention of other activists, in addition to documenting how he, his wife Zeng Jinyan (featured in TIME last year for her outspoken blog) and their small baby have been under tight house arrest and surveillance. He had lately taken to signing off his posts by noting the number of days until the Olympics. The message is clear when you see like this one, ending with a photo of a police surveillance car taken from the window, followed by the words: "230 days until the Olympics opening ceremony."
Quite a few Chinese bloggers have had the guts to rally behind the couple, and John's GVO post shows. The RFA has a roundup quoting Isaac Mao and Zhai Minglei here. People have been trying to send baby milk powder to Jinyan, and have grown increasingly outraged by reports now circulating around the Internet that the goons guarding Jinyan's apartment are stopping much of it from being delivered. Guo "Daxia" has published an open letter to President Hu Jintao by human rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong calling for Hu Jia's release. I hope somebody takes the time to translate the whole thing into English (it's very long). In the concluding paragraph Xu points out that 2008 is not only the Olympics but the 30th anniversary of China's reform and opening to the outside world. He concludes: "we are expecting and working for a modern and civilized China."
Meanwhile, I'm getting more and more e-mails with links to clever works of anti-Olympics viral activism like this:
As the "Zhongnanhai" blogger points out, if the Chinese government continues to let the State Security Bureau goons behave in the thuggish way they've been behaving so far, they're asking for it.
And it's definitely coming.
Lindsey Hilsum of Britain's Channel 4 News describes her shouted exchange through a window with Zeng Jinyan, whose state security captors won't let her out of the house, while young Olympic hostesses showed off their etiquette training to the media elsewhere in Beijing:
The government's fear is that people like Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan will spoil the party by presenting a bad image of China to the world - their solution is to lock them up.
But that will cause far more trouble. The images which will resonate around the world are not the identikit young women in immaculate uniforms learning to walk gracefully, but one young woman holding a tiny baby, shouting through the bars that they took her husband away and have imprisoned her at home.
As Sarah Cook writes in the National Post that the international community is shamefully silent:
... With no outcry from the International Olympic Committee or Western governments since his detention, his lawyers are now blocked from visiting him, placing him at greater risk of torture.
That is why the international community cannot stand on the sidelines. Silence is a stance in itself--a stance on the side of the authoritarian Communist Party's regime. And if Hu and Gao's work shows anything, it is that this is not the side that tens of millions of Chinese people really want us on.
In the Boston Globe, the executive director of Reporters Without Borders, Robert Menard points out that "the International Olympic Committee is saying nothing and is rejecting all appeals for help. The Olympic sponsors are not saying anything either." He also points out that Hu was not against the Olympics being held in China and did not support a boycott - he merely dared to speak out about the problems behind the facade.
The Chinese people deserve better than this. They deserve to be feted during the Olympics for their many very real achievements since reforms started 30 years ago. Instead, the state security apparatus and the control-freaks running the country are making the whole country seem to many outsiders like a miserable place. Shame on them.