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January 30, 2008

Comments

CCT

Rebecca,

You missed my point. The Foreign Agent Registration act isn't a law only on the books of the Bush administration: it's been on the books since 1938. If you're trying to distance yourself from its implications... then you better repudiate every American president from FDR onwards. That includes Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter, Clinton... and every single Congressman who has served in office during the past 7 decades and found it unnecessary to erase the law.

The law remains in place in the United States, and it says something very simple: those of you who serve foreign interests without opening yourself up for official monitoring are criminals who deserve imprisonment and worse.

So, from a moral and legal point of view... why shouldn't Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan be held up to the same standard in China? Who *is* paying their bills? Is it (indirectly) coming from the Falun Gong? Or the Taiwanese government? Or is it the NED? If their writings aren't just representatives of human curiosity and good-will, but rather serve the interests of a hostile foreign force... then why shouldn't the Chinese government preserve Chinese interests by pursuing legal remedy? Just as the United States government has done for 70 the past 70 years?

I will thank you for one thing though. Your second link to that Jinyan site brought me to an incredibly revealing phone conversation between Hu's parents and Hu's activist lawyer, Li Jinsong.

I wonder if you'll be kind enough to translate this as well for your English readers... as I, for one, thinks it provides precisely the other side of the story, the depth in understanding that just about everyone in the West completely misunderstand.

I'll start with one paragraph... from Hu's father:

"实际上胡佳是个傻蛋,就是在被反对国家现在领导政策的人利用拿他毁坏我们国家的声誉。
Really, Hu Jia's an idiot. He's being used by others opposed to our country's leadership's policies. They're using him to destroy the credibility and honor of our country."

Hu Jia's father and mother are both members of the Communist Party of China. Li Jinsong, his attorney/activist colleague representing him in this case, is also a member of the Communist Party. How many of those reading the standard Western coverage of this issue are aware of that?

How many of these Western papers, or even this blog, will understand both sides of the coin? Can they understand that they don't like the treatment Hu Jia has received, but neither do they agree with his political positions?

Do they, *do you*, understand that Hu's closest supporters are actually defending the Communist Party's position on suppressing his type of dissent?

e.r.

"Why can't China accept that dissent and argument are part of being a normal country?"

What about... because it's a sixty years dictatorship?
It's good to go into the subjects, but sometimes answers are more simple.

Best.

E.R.

Peter Marolt

@CCT: If the Chinese government had had any indication that a "hostile foreign force" was paying Hu Jia or Zeng Jinyan, then it would not have hesitated for one second and would have brought state secret charges against Hu and Zeng. I think Rebecca made this point already.

Whether *anyone* understands that "Hu's closest supporters are actually defending the Communist Party's position on suppressing his type of dissent", as you contend, or whether "Hu is being used" is actually completely beside the point.

The point is that holding a woman and her baby under house arrest, or preventing lawyers to talk with their clients is *not* something happening in a 'normal' country. How do you justify these actions?

Also, I'm not sure whether *you* really understand that for Chinese, there are myriad reasons for being a member of China's communist party. Simply stating the facts (if they are facts) is not leading anywhere.

Seriously, reading your comment, your claim to be "arguing from a moral and legal point of view" sounds very hypocritical to me.

Who are you and what is your agenda?

John Kennedy

It would be interesting to hear from Hu Jia on where, if any, his funding comes from. I can't imagine that he needs much. Zhai Minglei just wrote this week that Hu pretty much lives off his mom, which doesn't come as a surprise, I have friends older than Hu who still live with their parents, and they have pretty high-paying jobs. Speaking of jobs, Zeng did have one until very recently, presuming she no longer has it.

Their car is obviously not a very expensive one, in terms of the Chinese automotive market. Their mortgage, you say? They don't live anywhere near the city center, in fact they live quite near the Hebei border, which makes a lot of sense for a couple of their apparent economic state. Not exactly FLG high shamans or whatever the equivalent is, but I suppose one could harbor suspicions eternally and that will be useful for some, because you never know, Hu and Zeng's lives could just be one extremely elaborate facade.

The couple sure don't seem too popular with the diaspora. This guy sure thinks pretty lowly of them: http://blog.dwnews.com/?p=33519, and my reading of what's written there is that Hu doesn't play along with the old demo movement crowd. At least that writer suggests that Hu receives no money from that part of the world.

mahathir_fan

Thanks CCT. Very informative.

FYI, I as a non-Chinese or non-Western citizen had always had a skeptical stand on Hu Jia. An AIDS activists put under house arrest? Clearly, if it were that simple, we were not being told the full story. I had never believed that he was only an AIDS activist and nothing more. My hunch was right and once again the Western press isn't telling both sides of the story.

Peter

@mahathir_fan: It's not the task of the western press (or any press) to create a balanced picture - at least it is not what drives them, and thus they seem not to be capable of creating such a picture. You could of course compare the western press with the mainstream press the Hu/Zeng issue creates in China (none?), and see which one fares better in terms of providing such a balanced picture.

But ultimately it's the task of each one of us to reach a balanced conclusion. And by simply picking and choosing whom you believe (and, of all the people commenting here, you chose to believe "CCT") you chose to avoid facing this challenge.

My advice: Seek truth from facts. Not from wishful thinking or wearing ideological blinders.

Fact is that in China, as elsewhere, sick, poor, and underprivileged are suffering.

Fact is that in China, as elsewhere, there are people who are trying to help those who are sick, poor, and underprivileged.

Now: In China, is it made easy for these people to help, is there an institutional framework that supports them in their endeavor to strive for the betterment of society? Or are these people marginalized and punished for what they are trying to do? Prevented from speaking out or visiting their clients? Accused of collaborating with foreign devils out to harm the credibility and honor of China?

The facts that could help us find answers to these crucial questions are all out there, but it requires an immense effort to collect them, and it requires us to develop the independent critical thinking that helps us assess where we stand. For me, "CCT's" assessment is one of many, and although "CCT" may be feeding convenient beliefs, I would not follow your conclusion that "CCT" has a monopoly on the truth.

*Believing is seeing.* But seeing the truth is incredibly difficult, and does require you to take off those nationalist ideological blinders that you (as a 'fan' of 'mahathir') - seem to prefer wearing.

Do you really care about the truth? Then try and convince the Chinese government that Hu's lawyer should be allowed to see him, and that open engagement with the underlying social issues that have led to Hu's arrest and Zeng's house arrest will ultimately facilitate the creation of a truly harmonious society. Hu and Zeng have now become leading symbols of China's human rights problems. But I'm sure that if they'd have the choice, they might as well prefer to work on the ground and help those sick, poor, and underprivileged, and to help China on its quest to host a harmonious Olympics and create a truly harmonious society.

Just my 2ct.

Sophia

As a close follower of Hu Jia’s case, I find it hard to remain silent after reading the comments posted here. Being an occasional cynic myself, I can understand why there are so many doubts and controversies surrounding the ‘Hu Jia’ issue. However, I find these doubts (which could have derived from prejudices) very troubling as they cloud our vision and prevent us from seeing what is right and wrong. Therefore, I would like to highlight some facts and bring up some questions that hopefully will make us look at this whole issue from a fairer and more humane perspective

I also encourage those who only have little background knowledge of this issue to make use of the internet to find out more. There is a lot of information online in both English and Chinese.

Let’s say we give the authorities the benefit of the doubt and assume that Hu Jia is really guilty of ‘incitement to subvert state power’ (which in my opinion is not necessarily a crime), he and his family should still have access to their human rights which are as follow (please also refer to the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ as well as other international human rights conventions):

1) Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan should have access to see their lawyer; until now, this right is still being denied. Without a lawyer, there is no guarantee that the trial will be fair for Hu Jia. Lack of fairness in trials will erode people’s trust in the legal system (in fact, people are already losing trust in it).
2) Hu Jia’s lawyer has been placed under tight surveillance and even house arrest by the police and thus, prevented from visiting Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan. Limiting a citizen’s freedom of movement and also a lawyer’s right to serve his clients are human rights violations.
3) So far, police has refused to accept medications from the family members intended for Hu Jia who has a chronic liver condition. Right to receive medical treatment is denied.
4) If Zeng Jinyan is also guilty, then why was she not detained but placed under house arrest instead? It is illegal to imprison her and her infant at home, cut off her communication channels and take away her bank cards, cell phones and computers. What is the justification for these actions? If the government has a legal basis to arrest Hu Jia, do they have to fear Zeng to the extent of putting her under house arrest to silence her? Clearly, they have violated many fundamental rights of this young mother.
5) Friends and journalists have been denied access to visit Jinyan and her infant; daily necessities such as milk powder and diapers brought by friends were confiscated by the police. Again, what is the justification for these actions?

Though a legal assessment of the whole issue is necessary, I feel it is incomplete if we do not include the human rights perspective. China has established many laws and regulations but laws can be unjust, especially in a situation when the legislative body is overpowered by an authoritarian regime.

If the government is really doing the right thing based on the evidence they are now holding against Hu Jia, then they should not be afraid to let Zeng Jinyan step out of the house and communicate with the outside world. The Chinese authorities could also hold an open trial so as to let all of us have a more balanced judgement/view, instead of letting the Western press as well as the public speculating and even condemning the Chinese government, thus bringing bad publicity for the Beijing Olympics.

Based on the information that I got from the internet so far, the couple’s financial support comes mainly from Zeng’s job (which has stopped since her house arrest) and Hu’s parents who run a small business. The parents paid for the flat (which, located in the outskirts of Beijing, is much less expensive than people may think) and the car actually belongs to Hu’s sister. If they wanted to, the authorities could easily verify these, I believe. As John Kennedy mentioned, the couple doesn’t need a lot of money as they have simple lifestyles.

@CCT (as well as @mahathir_fan): “Hu's closest supporters are actually defending the Communist Party's position on suppressing his type of dissent?” My opinion on why Hu’s closest family members and friends may appear to stand on the side of the government is because of fear. Many decades of political movements, countless cases of arbitrary detention, lack of an independent judicial system, and (sometimes violent) suppression of critical voices have instilled a sense of fear in the people. So, in order to lead a more peaceful and trouble-free life, many people choose to self-censor and distance themselves from politics. This is very evident in China and elsewhere too. Only a few are able to free themselves from fear and dare to speak the truth. Though Hu Jia’s parents are, as you mentioned in your comment, Communist Party members, they had experienced suppression after being labelled as ‘rightists’ during the Cultural Revolution. Linking to what Peter alluded to earlier, being a CCP member in China does not always mean blind loyalty. I have come across CCP members who openly criticize the Chinese government.

Sadly, human rights have been overly politicized and many see it merely as political tools used by politicians to get what they want and hence, they turn their heads away when there is a public outcry of human rights abuses. Every country or regime, including those democratic governments, has records of human rights infringements. The key is not to see which countries have the most or the least human rights violations as it is *not a competition!* The key is also not to react defensively and say that ‘this is a sovereign matter’ or ‘mind your own business as you are not much better’. Such seemingly childish political games lead nowhere as there are no winners.

Instead, as human beings, we should all express our condemnation and urge the authorities to clean up their act whenever and wherever we see clearly with our own eyes that someone’s rights have been taken away from him or her, regardless of whether we share similar religious beliefs, ethnicity, or nationality. It is only when we stand up and act in solidarity then we are on the road to achieve a higher level of humanity.

If the Chinese government fails to respect those human rights stated above and elsewhere, then the goal of attaining a harmonious society will be far beyond reach.

mahathir_fan

I just found this on the web about Hu Jia:

"One possibility may have been his participation via Webcam in a Nov. 26 European Parliament hearing, when he reportedly said it was "ironic that one of the people in charge of organizing the Olympic Games is the head of the Bureau of Public Security, which is responsible for so many human rights violations.""

Wow..Chinese laws are really lax. If this happened in Malaysia, one would probably be in jail or have its citizenship revoked or detention for up to 2 years without trial under the Internal Security Act. Shouldn't he be charged for treason and face possible jail time or a revocation of his citizenship?

I'm now beginning to wonder if his parent's membership in the Communist Party is behind the scenes helping to free their son from jail time and instead getting a reduced sentence of a house arrest instead.

That's something to consider, why is someone like him only getting a house arrest and not official jail time like in most countries?


Peter

@mahathir_fan: You are asking: "Shouldn't he be charged for treason and face possible jail time or a revocation of his citizenship?"

Where I come from (Germany), Hu would probably be lauded for his civic courage while the judicial system would look for facts that either corroborate or refute these allegations.

I'm sorry to learn that the ideas of "free speech", "human rights," or "independent judicial system" have not made their way to Malaysia. This difference explains your views.

Despite the huge discrepancy between our ways of seeing, I hope that one day we are going to reach a consensus on this one.

By the way, Malaysia, Burma, China, and some African and Middle Eastern countries can hardly be considered "most countries."

mahathir_fan

The point of my asking that question is to see if HuJia's father had used his position as a member of the Communist Party to get a reduced sentence for HuJia (jail time vs. house arrest with internet connection).

If he did so, then it is understandable why HuJia is no longer allowed to see his lawyer as the authorities may have viewed this case as "settled" and the deal with his dad as some sort of a under the table plea bargain.

Reporters need to investigate this case from this angle so that we can get a clearer big picture of what is happening. Why are the authorities not pursuing this case and prosecuting HuJia to the full extend of the law? Then, Hujia would either be acquitted or serve jail time.

While many like you criticize this house arrest, the people close to HuJia like his Dad may instead view this house arrest as a chance for his son to avoid potential jail time had they pursued full legal remedies.

Its a choice: Do you want to get a few months of house arrest with internet access and all the comforts of home, or take your chances at the court of law and if good luck then acquitted or if bad luck, serve jail time? Someone may have made the choice for him.

We need to know.

"By the way, Malaysia, Burma, China, and some African and Middle Eastern countries can hardly be considered "most countries."

It should include a couple of European countries too afterall, our treason laws originated from laws made during the colonial era to prosecute our independent fighters.

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