The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns today’s decision by a Beijing court to sentence human rights activist Hu Jia to three and a half years’ jail and one year’s denial of political rights on charges of “inciting subversion to state power”.
Hu, 35, was arrested on December 27, 2007, and formally charged on January 29, 2008, with “inciting subversion of state power”. He was accused of making comments to foreign media and publishing articles on Boxun, a banned Chinese-language website based in the United States, that were critical of Chinese authorities in relation to democracy and human rights from August 2006 to October 2007. Hu was under house arrest at the time.
More than a hundred journalists and citizens gathered outside the court, but were not allowed enter to hear the sentence pronounced.
The court said that Hu maliciously defamed the power of the state and the communist system in China.
Hu’s wife, blogger Zeng Jinyan, said that Hu would not want to appeal the case after he was sentenced. However, Hu’s lawyer Li Fang-Ping said that Hu has not yet ruled out an appeal.
Zeng, along with their baby daughter, has been under house arrest since Hu’s arrest. She said today that Hu had lost more than 600 days of freedom since his house arrest. Zeng has also been under surveillance from officials.
On January 6, more than 100 human rights lawyers, writers and activists wrote an open letter to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress calling for the law on “inciting subversion of state power” to be amended.
They said the law not only jeopardised freedom of speech for all citizens but also breached China’s Constitution. Freedom of speech is enshrined in Chapter Two, Article 35, which states, “Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.”
“The jail sentence imposed on Hu Jia today, based on opaque charges, again highlights that China’s authorities intend to stamp out and silence dissent regardless of their commitments to do otherwise ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games in August,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.
“China’s pledge to permit a free media rings hollow when Hu and others are jailed for voicing an independent view and the authorities remove journalists and restrict media access to Tibet and restive provinces. The international community must take a stronger line in encouraging China to recognise the universality of human rights, including the right to free expression and a free media.”
The IFJ demands China’s authorities repeal Hu’s sentence.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries