Hu Jia has long been a thorn in the side of
the Chinese government. Last week, about to fly to Europe to talk on human
rights, he was detained and accused of threatening state security. It’s only
the latest attempt to silence him, says Sami Sillanpää, who followed Hu for
more than a year as he was kidnapped, illegally imprisoned and deprived of
Enemy of the state
Hu Jia has long been a thorn in
the side of the Chinese government. Last week, about to fly to Europe
to talk on human rights, he was detained and accused of threatening state security.
It’s only the latest attempt to silence him, says Sami Sillanpää, who followed
Hu for more than a year as he was kidnapped, illegally imprisoned and deprived of
Tuesday May 22, 2007
February 7, 2006
Today Hu Jia is free. No one stops
him as he walks into a restaurant in downtown Beijing.
But this small, bespectacled man is one of China‘s most prominent
dissidents, so closely monitored that it has been difficult to arrange a
meeting with him. Many of the diners are still in holiday mood.
The Chinese new year has just passed, and the year of the dog has begun. But Hu does
not eat anything. He is on a hunger strike.
In recent months, the Chinese
government has tightened its censorship of the media and the internet. Civil groups have been
brought under closer control, critical scholars have been silenced and lawyers
harassed. As a protest, a civil rights defence movement has started a rotating
strike, with each activist taking turns to fast for 24 hours. There
may be only a few dozen people involved, but they have used the internet and
mobile phones to form a network. As the protest spreads around China,
the state security apparatus is getting nervous.
The activists are, naturally, under
surveillance. At a table nearby, two lugubrious men sit smoking in silence,
without ordering anything. "They listen to my phone, they read my emails.
They know everything," Hu says. "There is no avoiding it."
Today is an important day for Hu.
He is going to resign from the Loving Source Aids support group, a
non-governmental organisation (NGO) he has been running. "I will become a full-time democracy
activist," he says. In China,
such a statement is tantamount to declaring oneself an enemy of the state. Why
do it? "In the past 20 years and more, China’s
economy has developed immensely. But the political system remains the same.
It’s still just the one party in power. That is why there is conflict in the
society," Hu says from behind his tea cup. "I believe I have been born to fight for
justice. I can’t stand injustice. Even at school I was always the one who
defended girls who were teased or bullied."
A text message comes from Hu Jia.
"I’m under house arrest again."
Plain-clothes officers are
standing watch outside Hu’s home, day and night. Their job is to see to it that
he does not leave the house.
This is a familiar practice. In Beijing
alone there are dozens of people under the same kind of surveillance. It is quite possible
that as many as tens of thousands of police officers all around China are engaged in
watching its citizens.
The phone rings in the morning.
The caller is Hu Jia’s wife, Zeng Jinyan.
"Hu Jia is missing. No one knows where he
is. His mobile phone is switched off."
The previous morning Zeng had
left for work, leaving Hu in their apartment. When she returned, the place was
empty. There were no signs of a struggle, but the men guarding the building
It is crowded on Chang’an
Avenue, the Avenue of Eternal Peace. Skyscrapers
rear up on both sides of the street, one of Beijing’s
main arteries. In front of one gleaming hotel stands a group of foreign
tourists gaping at Beijing’s
prosperous modern centre.
Inside the hotel itself, they are
talking about a different Chinese reality. Some of Hu Jia’s supporters have
invited foreign journalists to a press briefing. The location has been passed on by text
message at the last minute, so that state security has no time to react.
On a sofa in a room in the hotel
sits Hu Jia’s wife Zeng Jinyan, 22.
"I’m scared that Hu Jia is
being kept in a dark cellar and beaten up," she says.
Hu has been involved in many
controversial subjects in his 32 years. In the mid-1990s, as an economics
student, he joined the environmental organisation Friends of Nature, and made
several trips to Inner Mongolia to plant trees. At the
turn of the millennium, he got into Aids work. Gradually he has moved towards
campaigning on behalf of more and more politically sensitive issues.
He has gone missing several times before. Usually
word has come down from officials that he has been taken into custody. This
time, nobody is saying anything. Zeng and Hu’s family have gone to the police
station several times to file a missing-person report – but the police have
refused to accept it.
Zeng is fretting about her
husband’s health. Hu has Hepatitis B, a common virus in China,
and needs daily medication. His medicines are at home.
Zeng has not heard from her
husband for six weeks, but today, finally, her phone rings at work. "I’ve
been freed," Hu Jia says.
When she has stopped crying, Zeng
begins calling around to friends and to foreign journalists. The sketchy
details of Hu’s disappearance come out. Hu Jia was abducted by plain-clothed men who kept him
prisoner for 41 days at an unknown address.
Hu Jia has been admitted to
hospital. There is a white sedan with no licence plates parked in front of the
hospital. Two bored-looking men sit inside the car. Fortunately there is a side
entrance to the building.
"The car without plates
belongs to state security people," says Hu Jia, sitting on a hospital bed
in his pyjamas.
After being held for 41 days, Hu needed
medical treatment. Now, hospitalised for a second time, he has been in this Beijing ward for three weeks.
"The doctor said I have serious liver
damage. He asked if I drink a lot," he says.
A devout Buddhist, Hu does not
touch alcohol. But Hepatitis B, an inflammation of the liver, can lead to
cirrhosis, especially without medication. Hu’s health also suffered during his
detention because he refused to eat.
On the morning of his abduction, February 16,
Hu had wanted to leave for an NGO meeting in Beijing. At the street door
downstairs, a dozen or so men were waiting for him. They put a hood over his
head and bundled him into a car. "It was hard to
breathe," he says. "The car drove at high speed and we took a lot of
turns. I started to feel sick."
At the destination, the first
thing he saw once his hood was removed, was a uniformed policeman. There were
five or six other men in the room, all in civilian clothes. No one showed him
The men wanted Hu to tell them about the
activists’ hunger strike. Who organised it? Who was involved? Hu refused to
He demanded a phone call, but the
men refused. Frustrated, Hu grabbed a lamp from a table and hit himself with
it. "I’m a Buddhist, so I do not hit other people. I smashed the lamp on
to my own head, because I thought then they would have to take me to a
Instead, he was left bleeding in
Hu speaks about his kidnapping in
a clear and consistent fashion, but many of the details cannot be verified from
other sources. The authorities refuse to talk.
He says he was kept in two different places,
neither of which was a police station. In one, he was taken to a small suite or
apartment, apparently in a hotel on the outskirts of Beijing.
Hu says that he was kept in the
smaller of the rooms. In the other, three or four men kept watch around the
clock. When Hu wanted to use the toilet, he had to leave the door open.
Days turned into weeks. He asked
them to get his medicine. The answer was no.
According to Hu, his minders told
him they were police officers, working for the Domestic Security Unit of the
Public Security Bureau. He recognised some of the men who had kept watch
outside his home earlier. Others visited the room from time to time – agents
from the Ministry of State Security, Hu concluded. These two organisations are
special units with a remit to maintain communist rule.
Hu says he was never given a reason for his
kidnapping. In the car on the way to freedom, he was threatened with another
detention if he did not give up his civil-rights work.
"I will start digging your graves,"
the hooded Hu said defiantly, before being dumped in the parking lot of a
He has recovered well. One night
he even managed to slip out of the ward without the security agents noticing,
and had dinner at a restaurant with friends, still dressed in his hospital
pyjamas. The hunger strike has withered because the participants have been
arrested and harassed.
Now Hu is making new plans.
Hu has been released from
hospital and is free again, after a fashion. He can leave his home, but is
trailed by police everywhere he goes. "Sometimes they are quite candid
about it," he says. "Sometimes they hide clumsily behind an opened
Hu winds up his stalkers by taking photographs
"Back under house
arrest," says another text message from Hu.
Hu Jia lives on the east side of Beijing.
The apartment block area is neat and new, a district populated by the rising
middle class. One of the blocks is under special surveillance. A group of
heavy-set men stand by the steps to the front door of the building.
Somebody shouts on seeing me, but
I slip between the men, run up the four flights of stairs and ring the
doorbell. Hu Jia opens the door and looks astonished. "This is
miraculous," he says, shaking his head.
In recent weeks, nobody has made
it in to see Hu and Zeng.
My host suggests we watch a home
video. A group of men appear on the screen, smoking and playing cards in the
yard in front of the house. "That’s them," says Hu.
He has been filming his minders in secret from
the apartment balcony and from the upstairs landing. The close-ups show the
unsmiling faces of bored-looking men.
The video picks out Zeng walking
out of the building and across the yard. She is wearing a T-shirt, with a
slogan on the back that reads "Tailing, Surveillance, Shameful".
In the past few days, Zeng has
been allowed off the premises, but she is always followed by eight police
officers. If she takes the car, they tail her in two cars.
Hu has studied his jailers
carefully. The video image focuses to show the licence-plate on a black Hyundai
sedan: "Peking G24758."
"Those two guys may be the same ones who
beat up the lawyer, Gao," says Hu.
He is referring to Gao Zhisheng, a well-known
critic of the government. Three days ago, Gao was beaten up outside his house.
He managed to take some pictures of his assailants’ car. It was this black Hyundai
with the same licence plate. The tape goes on. A white van draws up outside
Hu’s building. "That’s a delivery van from the restaurant. It brings food
for the policemen. We’ve lived here for two years and that van has been out
front every morning and evening."
Zeng brings juice and watermelon
to the table. The Beijing summer is
at its sweaty height, and the apartment has no air conditioning. The door is
open to the balcony. Washing hangs from a clothes horse.
Zeng sits next to her husband on
the sofa. The couple celebrated their first wedding anniversary the previous
week. They spent it at home, prisoners in their own apartment.
Hu leads me through to his study. On his
laptop is a picture of a smiling Dalai Lama. Hu admires the Tibetan spiritual
leader, who has lived in exile since 1959, almost since China occupied Tibet.
Hu Jia, too, feels he is fighting against
injustice. He wants an independent judiciary, free media, and competing
political parties. "Only then can China truly become a great
According to the government itself, in 2005
there were some 87,000 "mass incidents", meaning demonstrations,
riots or other public disturbances. Most are small and localised. The Communist
Party’s fear is that these disgruntled elements will join forces and form a
Hu is constantly writing letters on these
matters to government offices, appeals to international organisations, memos
and updates to journalists. It is the work of a lobbyist. And it is unpaid.
Zeng is the breadwinner. She works at a decorating supplies firm owned by Hu’s
Hu’s father also sees to the
mortgage repayments on the couple’s apartment. He takes no part in his son’s
activism. In the days of Mao’s purges of 1957, Hu’s father was branded a
rightist and subjected to "re-education through labour". He spent
more than 20 years in forced labour, in prisons and camps around the
He does not want to see his son’s
life destroyed, too. He has urged Hu to turn away from revolt and to
concentrate on his own life, to act like other young people.
In a corner of the study there is a small
altar, with candles and a statue of Buddha. Hu and Zeng often pray together. Hu
turned to Buddhism after the Tiananmen massacre, because the faith emphasised
non-violence. "According to Buddhist doctrines it is wrong to feel
anger," he says. "But I am often angry at the actions of the police
or for various injustices. I should learn mercy."
Hu’s home phone line and internet
connection have been cut off.
Hu feels the net tightening around him. One
after another, leading rights defenders are being rounded up and arrested,
most recently the lawyer, Guo Feixiong, a close friend of Gao Zhisheng. He
sends me a list of his relatives’ phone numbers by email. "In case
something happens to me," he says.
A longtime friend believes that Hu has set his
course on martyrdom. "Hu Jia believes that society needs people like
himself. His thinking is that change will come only if there are some who are
willing to put their lives on the line for it."
Hu is alone at home. Surprisingly, Zeng has
been given permission to travel abroad. The government presumably had no idea
what she was planning. She travelled to India and managed to get an
audience with the Dalai Lama. They discussed Buddhism and China‘s human rights
situation and the Dalai Lama promised to pray for China‘s rights defenders.
While Zeng is away, Hu starts to run out of food. After negotiations, he is
permitted to walk the 200m or so from his home to the nearest store. The
security agents follow at his side. Hu buys rice, vegetables, tea, and other
necessities. Then the agents escort him back.
Hu’s house arrest has lasted more
than five months. There has been no arrest warrant, no charges brought, no
legal procedure, nothing. How can the government justify its actions?
The ministry of justice refuses
to comment. The ministry of state security is ex-directory. So I ask a foreign ministry
spokesperson why a human rights activist is being kept prisoner in his own
home. "I am not aware of the case you are talking about," Qin Gang
replies. "China is a country ruled by
law. The authorities operate according to laws and regulations."
Teng Biao, a professor at China
University of Political Science and Law, says Hu Jia’s house arrest is
Over the phone, Hu sounds rather
down. Imprisoned in his own home, he finds it hard to entertain himself.
"When I want to relax, I go out on to my balcony and stare into the
January 1, 2007
It is a cold day, so the men
watching Hu Jia’s home have gone inside. I peek through the front door into the
stairwell. The men are playing cards, sitting on picnic chairs.
I open the door and rush past
them up the flights of stairs. They either have no time or no inclination to
The residents of apartment
542 are delighted to have a visitor. For nearly six months
nobody – excluding the police and one relative – has paid a call on Hu and
Zeng. Many have tried and been stopped by the police. But most have simply
decided to steer clear of trouble.
Hu looks pale, but he sounds
cheerful enough. "My health has not changed for the worse or for the
In the living room, Hu places his
chair on a spot where the sun shines in through the balcony windows. Zeng
brings him a cup of yoghurt.
There are a couple of weeks left of the year
of the dog. But at the turn of the western calendar year, Hu has a habit of
counting up the days he has spent detained or under house arrest in the past 12
In 2006 there were 168 such days, more than
ever before in his life. Hu was also missing for 41 days in February and March
after being kidnapped, and the rest of the days he was followed everywhere he
went: "2006 was a very tight year," Hu says.
In the course of the year, the government
crushed the leaders of the civil-rights movement. A dozen leading members were
imprisoned or detained and many others were beaten up and harassed.
Hu is the most prominent of those
who were not totally silenced. Why? Perhaps China
has changed, even in its handling of dissidents. When Hu’s father was
persecuted, there were not even fake trials. There were public executions.
"The police told me that
five years ago I would already have been locked up in prison for what I
do," Hu says. He doesn’t blame the activists who have been scared into
silence: "They have to think first and foremost about their families. But
when the others keep silent, it is even more important that I speak out."
Hu Jia has always answered my questions.
But there is something personal I have hesitated to ask. Over the phone, he
answers even that.
His wife, he says, wants a child really badly.
"But my life is not stable. Any moment I can be detained or sent to
prison. That would break Jinyan’s heart. I don’t want our child to be raised in
such a terrible situation."
There is hope in the air. Hu and Zeng have
been invited to go to Europe to speak about their
experiences. Preparations have been made in as much secrecy as possible. Hu and
Zeng are excited about the opportunity of a few weeks of freedom. But this
morning, just as they were preparing to fly to Hong Kong, the police intervene.
They take Hu and Zeng for interrogation.
"The officials told us we
are both now suspected of threatening state security," Hu tells me on his
security," usually spells big trouble. In the past, it has often meant
legal charges and lengthy imprisonment.
Hu and Zeng are not going to Europe. They are locked in
their home and can only wait for others to determine their fate. "The
government stops us from going so that we would not disclose negative
information about China ahead of the
Olympics," Hu says. "But this kind of action itself shows the dark
side of the government".
· This article was first
published in the Helsingin Sanomat.
* – * –
* – * – * – * – * – * – * – * – * – * – * – * – * – * – * – *
En Marzo de 1965,
Miguel Angel Granados Chapa, de 23 años de edad, pasante de derecho y
estudiante de periodismo en la Escuela de Ciencias Políticas fue secuestrado
por un comando del MURO integrado por seis sujetos que lo subieron a un lujoso
automóvil y lo condujeron a un sitio desierto por el rumbo de Contreras.
rostro con cinta adhesiva, Granados Chapa fue atado a un árbol y sometido a una
golpiza a puntapiés. “!Esta es una advertencia, la próxima te va peor!”, le
gritó uno de los sujetos antes de dejarlo abandonado.
El Yunque: La
Ultraderecha en el Poder. Alvaro Delgado. Plaza y Janés. 2003.
El Yunque luego tomó
al “tonto útil” (El PAN) para la “causa”. Capturé imágenes mejor porque me ganó
la fiaca, ahí pueden terminar de leer la sustentación de lo que viene.
¿Qué es lo que
intento demostrar HOY? Bien, les traigo otra de mis teorías “excéntricas”.
Siguen los expertos perdidos en sus análisis lineales, y pecan no solo de
“buena voluntad” sino inclusive de ingenuidad, comp@s. Tal cual me ocurrió a
mí. Pero VAAA:
El Gobierno de FCH
con todo el dispendio no ha podido dar un solo resultado. Por cierto, eso de
los dineros en propaganda no es tan visible en comerciales hasta la náusea como
en el sexenio pasado, porque los spots no son el objetivo, búsquenle,
búsquenle. Regresando al punto, la gente del “gran billete” está perdiendo la
paciencia. ¿No se los avisé con toda antelación? Lo que quieren ellos YA, YA,
YA son privilegio$$$.
¿’Tons? ¡Ya suelta
la sopa! Es fácil. ¿No es cierto que, según este libro de Alvaro Delgado, los
del Yunque apoyados por empresarios tomaron por asalto al PAN desplazando a los
“panistas tradicionales”? Pues ahí tienen, todos esos movimientos que parecen
contradictorios muy en el fondo no lo son. Los empresarios están ahora mandando
como ariete al Yunque para desestabilizar a CaldeRON, esas son las
relativamente buenas noticias.
Así, dados los
últimos desatinos del primer mandatario; como ese de descalificar el exhorto de
la permanente del Congreso de la Unión para sacar al ejército del combate al
narcotráfico es un mensaje gravísimo. Después de todo, el Legislativo es uno de
los poderes en una República Federalista como la nuestra, güeno hasta HOY. Sin
embargo, yo no me contradigo, combatir al narcotráfico es sólo una cortina de
humo para instalar un estado totalitario, con todo y esos clasemedieros que se
sienten como para portada del CARAS.
Pero, los de la
Resistencia podemos aprovechar esta coyuntura para tratar intensificar nuestras
acciones de boicoteo económico, repito, ahí está la clave. Porque son tan
impacientes que no van a soportar como todos nosotros la panza farol (chin, otra
vez hablando a la Tampiqueña), ¡sí, cómo no! Nombre, son tan chillones que
cuando vean disminuciones en sus ganancias del siguiente trimestre van a
tirarse al piso y aguantar la respiración hasta ponerse morados como berrinche.
Y luego van a ir por el Chaparrito. ‘Tons comp@s, please aguanten y sigánle con
el boicot, ya verán que se van a despedazar entre los azules.
¿La mala? No
permitan, ni de chiste, que vaya a llegar un Yunqueto a la “interina”. Esa va a
ser nuestra otra trinchera, buscar a un “moderado”. En otras circunstancias propondría al Cuauh,
pero mejor nel, anda rechaquetero. Bueno, según “el maestro” es porque lo
tienen bien agarrado del cogote por ciertos “guardaditos” de su vástago.
Anyway, el Cuauh tiene varias cuentas pendientes con los Zapat@s también. En su
momento ya buscaremos a uno de transición, por ahora lo que urge es
desquiciarlos económicamente para que se aniquilen entre sí. Esto tampoco es
nuevo Jalife ya lo había mencionado en boca de Wallerstein, el presidente
Mexicano no va a durar ni dos años, al tiempo.
Norwich, G(ran) B(illete);
mi nave cibernética
laberinto de los planetas muertos
y cual si fuera la
espuma de una marca de cerveza
un anuncio me ha
vendido ya, la forma de mi cabeza.
– No tengo tiempo
… for the cause.