Hu Jia, a renowned Chinese human rights’ activist, is serving three-and-a-half years’ in prison after giving interviews to overseas media and writing articles for the Internet.

In April this year, he was convicted of 'inciting subversion of state power'. The 35-year-old, who started out as an AIDS activist seven years ago, has been repeatedly harassed and beaten by police because of his activities and outspokenness.

“Not counting one time in 2002, when Hu was detained by police while interviewing AIDS village inhabitants, he will have been under various forms of imprisonment for exactly four years on 3 April 2008,” said his wife Zeng Jinyan who herself remains under house arrest with couple’s baby daughter.

We consider Hu Jia to be a prisoner of conscience and demand his immediate and unconditional release.

Speaking out

Hu Jia was detained last December after spending much of the previous year under house arrest in Bobo Freedom City, the apartment complex where he lived in Beijing.

He had publicly voiced his concerns about human rights abuses by Beijing police, including the arrest of activists such as Yang Chunlin and Lu Gengsong without the necessary legal procedures.

Hu Jia’s imprisonment, after a one-day, closed trial in March this year, makes a mockery of the promises Chinese officials made that human rights would improve in the run-up to the Olympics.

Interrogation sessions

We believe his conviction is punishment for his public critiques of human rights violations in China and is a warning to any other activists who dare to raise such concerns publicly.

The charges against Hu Jia cited comments he made in two interviews with foreign media and in five articles he wrote for the Internet, including for boxun.com, a news site which is banned in China.

The court verdict said Hu Jia “spread malicious rumors, and committed libel in an attempt to subvert the state's political power and socialist system”.

Since his detention in December last year, Hu Jia has been subjected to 47 lengthy interrogation sessions. He was denied access to his lawyer, family and medical treatment, including medicines he needed for a liver disease.

Rights and freedoms

Hu Jia is the co-founder of the Beijing Aizhixing Institute of Health Education and of Loving Source, a grassroots organisation dedicated to helping children who come from families affected by AIDS.

Hu Jia along with the Dalai Lama, was recently named an honorary citizen of Paris He has reported on human rights violations in China and given interviews to foreign media. He has advocated for democratic rights, religious freedom and self-determination for Tibet.

Last November, he took part, via webcam, in a European Union parliamentary hearing on human rights, which was being held in Brussels. He told the hearing China had failed to fulfill its promises to improve human rights in the run-up to the Olympics.

In a blog last September, Hu Jia wrote that China didn’t have democratic elections, freedom of religion, independent courts or independent unions.

“It prohibits protests and labor strikes. It is a state that carries out widespread torture, discrimination, and employs a large secret police system,” he wrote.

Tears, torture and spilled blood

Last September, Hu Jia, along with human rights lawyer and university lecturer Teng Biao, published an article about human rights abuses in China.

In it they wrote: “Perhaps you will come to Beijing for the Olympics. If you do, you’ll see tall skyscrapers, broad boulevards, modern sports facilities, and a passionate people. What you’ll see is real, but it’s not the whole picture. It is just like seeing a glacier at sea. You may not know it, but some of these fresh flowers and smiles, this harmony and prosperity are built on abuses, tears, imprisonment, torture, and spilled blood.”

In February this year, China's foreign minister Yang Jiechi said: "No one will get arrested because he said that human rights are more important than the Olympics. This is impossible."