Reporters Without Borders urges the Chinese authorities to quickly explain what has happened to Zeng Jinyan, the wife of jailed Chinese dissident Hu Jia and a human rights blogger in her own right, and to guarantee her freedom of movement and safety.
After flying to Beijing yesterday from Shenzen, where she had been living since April, Zeng appears to have posted news of herself today on Twitter with the aim of quashing rumours about her possible disappearance. But it is impossible to say whether she posted the two Tweets herself or whether she posted them of her own free will.
The first Tweet said: “As I was getting off the plane, eight people came and took me away, they even took my luggage.” The second one said: “I think this is how life is going to be after (Hu Jia is released).”
Zeng did not identify the eight people but it is safe to assume they were officials of some kind. Reporters Without Borders fears that she has been placed under house arrest ahead of her prominent husband’s release on completion of a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence, which is due to take place on 26 June.
Later today there was third Tweet that was astonishingly relaxed in tone: “I have just got home. I am going to cook tofu and tomatoes. I don’t know if it will be good. I saw Hu Jia today. I asked him if he was taking care of himself. There is still time for that. Media friends, my apologies and thank you for your concern.”
“If Zeng Jinyan is about to be or has been placed under house arrest, the Chinese government would be guilt of arbitrary detention of a completely illegal kind,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It would culminate the years of constant harassment to which the couple has been subjected because of their activism. And it would be a slap in the face for the international community, which has repeatedly voiced its support for Hu and Zeng.
“It would also make the true intentions of the Chinese authorities clear. Hu’s much awaited release would be just a smokescreen. The couple would be prevented from leading a normal life and, above all, from expressing their views amid a heightened crackdown on dissidents in general. We call for Hu’s immediate and unconditional release and concrete guarantees as regards the couple’s freedom of movement and expression.”
Zeng has been under close surveillance ever since her husband’s arrest in December 2007. Just weeks ago, the Chinese authorities had Zeng and her small daughter evicted from the apartment they had rented in Shenzen.
A campaigner on behalf of AIDS sufferers and the environment, Hu was sentenced in April 2008 to three and a half years in prison on a charge of inciting subversion of state authority. The European Parliament awarded him its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in October 2008.
Instead of freeing dissidents when they complete their jail sentences, the authorities have for months been covertly placing them under house arrest or, more disturbingly, engineering their disappearance. It seems that the government has decided that it will never fully release prisoners of conscience. Instead, it does everything possible to isolate them from their families and the rest of society, by cutting their means of communication and restricting their movements.
Writers, lawyers, human rights activists and other dissidents receive similar treatment. Their phone lines and Internet service are disconnected in order to cut them off from the outside world.
Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns such behaviour, which violates international law and has the effect of imposing life sentences on all former prisoners of conscience.
Reporters Without Borders published a report last March about the Chinese “justice” system’s use of such iniquitous methods. China is on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Enemies of the Internet” and is ranked 171st out of 178 countries in its latest press freedom index.