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Hu Jia sentenced to three and a half years in jail

April 4, 2008

According to British newspaper The Guardian, a Chinese court has jailed Hu Jia, one of the country’s most prominent human rights activists, for three and a half years. on subversion charges, prompting an international outcry. Hu’s wife, Zeng Jinyan, and 4 months old daughter are still kept under house arrest.

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Chinese blogger and humanitarian activist Hu Jia was arrested on 27 December for “inciting subversion of state authority.” This morning, in a trial described by The Chinese Human Rights Defenders network as a classic case of political persecution, Hu was found guilty and sentenced to three and a half years in prison. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the “crime” that sent Hu to prison was posting articles about the human rights situation in the run-up to the Olympics on overseas Chinese websites.

Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the sentence, as well as by the apparent lack of reaction from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

In sending this resolute individual in prison, the government is silencing a spokesman for the victims of repression, one who would have had the courage to talk to the thousands of foreign journalists coming to Beijing to cover the Olympics. The list of Olympic Games prisoners is getting longer while the International Olympic Committee remains desperately silent, RSF stated on the organization’s web site.

Before China was chosen to host the 2008 Olympic Games, the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Bid Committee promised that allowing Beijing to host the Olympics would help the development of human rights. So far, the upcoming Olympics seem to have had the opposite effect. Together with the brutal crackdown on Buddhist monks and other peaceful Tibetan protesters, the sentencing of Hu is a terrifying example of just how desperate the Chinese authorities are to silence all criticism before the Games begin.

Amnesty International has launched a campaign demanding Hu Jia’s immediate release. Sign the petition here!

See no evil

As Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch told The Guardian:

– The timing of the announcement of the verdict – right when the IOC is meeting in Beijing – highlights how complacent the IOC has been in disregarding human rights violations generated by the preparation of the games.

The IOC seems determined to see no evil, hear no evil and certainly speak no evil when it comes to human rights violations by the Chinese regime. The Committee has pretended not to notice the brutal oppression of the Tibetan people. It has kept silent about the Chinese support for the horrible regime in Burma. Now it, pretends not to notice that the Chinese “justice” system uses the Olympics as an excuse to round up and incarcerate every dissident it can find.

The Chinese government has shown clearly that it has absolutely no intent of doing anything whatsoever to improve its human rights record. Now, it is time for the IOC to get their heads out of the sand and actually do something. The committee must demand in no uncertain terms that the Chinese authorities

– immediately and unconditionally release Hu and all other Chinese and Tibetan prisoners of conscience, and put an end to the crackdowns on peaceful demonstrations and the arrests of human rights activists.

– guarantee that foreign journalists will be allowed to travel freely and report from all parts of China and Tibet both before and during the Olympics. The government must also guarantee that all Chinese and Tibetan citizens will be allowed to talk to journalists, without fear of retribution.

– guarantee that both athletes and other visitors to the games, as well as the Chinese and Tibetan peoples will be allowed to show their concern for the human rights situation in China through all possible peaceful means.

– halt the economic, military and political support for the Burmese military junta.

Time to speak out

Whether or not the IOC actually has the guts to speak out on these issues, all civilized nations planning to participate in the Beijing Olympics must tell the Chinese government that the current human rights situation in China is totally unacceptable. The Chinese authorities must be told that the Olympic Games must be held in an atmosphere of openness, freedom and peace, and that the Olympics should never be used as an excuse for violent oppression. The only other option is boycotting the entire games.

The Chinese authorities have made it perfectly clear to the world that they do not care about human rights. By participating in the 2008 Olympics without demanding a real change in the Chinese attitude towards human rights, we signal that we do not care either. If human rights really are important to us – more important than sports – this is the time to show it.

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