Human Rights watch in New York have issued a call for Beijing to release activist Hu Jia, whose case we have followed closely. “The case of Hu Jia, who will as of February 27 have been detained for two months, has become emblematic of Beijing’s broad attempt to suppress dissent ahead of the Olympic Games,” the organization wrote.
“The longer Hu Jia is in detention, the worse China’s image will be,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “With fewer than six months to go before the Olympics, the Chinese government has everything to gain and nothing to lose by releasing him.”
Actually, I think it’s increasingly clear that Beijing is confident it can sling pesky people like Hu in the pokey until the Games are over and basically get away with it. They may be right, too. (Here’s a link, by the way, to an open letter he and fellow activist Teng Biao wrote on the Olympics and China, translated by HRW.)
The case of his wife Zeng Jinyan, on the other hand, may be more complicated. She’s been under house arrest since Hu’s arrest but is now sporadically contactable by phone, though anyone trying to interview her still gets turned away by the policemen camped outside her apartment. One piece of good news is that her baby is doing well (see photo above). She also doesn’t have any policemen actually living in the apartment with her, as they were for a while. Zeng (a former Time 100 pick, incidentally, to declare an interest, I guess) says she insisted on going out one day and there was the usual scuffle. This time, however, she got so angry that she bit one of the policemen who had his hand across her face. They moved out the same day, she recounts with a chuckle, though only as far as the apartment above hers.
As I say, I think Zeng will eventually be more of a problem than her husband for the authorities in the run up to the Olympics, and not just because she obviously isn’t easily intimidated. As more and more foreign reporters arrive in China, they’ll all be looking for a quick story that’s easily accessible, has guaranteed human interest and so on. What better than a innocent young mother corralled by hordes of police, struggling to get out of the house so her baby can get a check up ? They would after all be merely exercising the rights China has guaranteed, i.e. that foreign reporters can interview anyone who agrees, which Zeng certainly does. And then there’s the added possibility that the police might rough up the pushier reporters (who have been known to actually be provocative, gasp!) for some extra color. There’ll be a growing stream of hacks beating a path to the doors of Bobo Freedom City, mark my words. Actually, I don’t want to put ideas in anyone’s head, but I’d take pretty long odds that eventually they’ll be forced to detain her too.