Outspoken Chinese activists silent after release

Written on June 27, 2011 by Banafsheh Farhangmehr in Arts & Cultures & Societies


Beijing (CNN) — Chinese authorities released prominent human rights activist Hu Jia Sunday, days after freeing renowned dissident artist Ai Weiwei.

“A sleepless night — Hu Jia arrived at home at 2:30. He’s safe and I’m very happy,” Zeng Jinyan, Hu’s wife, said in a Twitter post Sunday morning. “He needs to rest for a while.”

Hu, 37, denounced China’s human rights record in a series of articles ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and was later sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for “inciting to subvert state power.” Ai, the conceptual artist turned government critic, was released Wednesday on bail after authorities detained him for nearly three months for tax evasion, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. The seemingly positive news, however, has been dampened by the noticeable silence of both once-outspoken activists.

While Ai declined to answer questions from reporters outside his home early this week, police Sunday guarded entrances to Hu’s apartment compound and patrolled surrounding streets. Zeng, his wife, appeared unreachable via phone or the internet.

Zeng told CNN Friday that authorities started 24-hour surveillance on her several days before Hu’s expected return. In an interview last December, she predicted a virtual prisoner’s life for the couple in their housing complex, called Freedom City.

“Hu Jia told me that he won’t change, and police told him they may put him under house arrest in that case,” she said. “I’m prepared for it.” “As long as there’s no democracy or the rule of law in China, our situation won’t change at all.”

Last year’s Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, also a rights activist, was convicted of the same crime as Hu. Liu is still serving an 11-year jail term.

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