Chinese Government Must Release Critically Ill Activist Hu Jia on Humanitarian Grounds

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(Chinese Human Rights Defenders- April 8, 2010) According to his wife, Zeng Jinyan (曾金燕), imprisoned human rights activist Hu Jia (胡佳) may be suffering from liver cancer. Zeng, who has applied to prison officials in Beijing for Hu’s release on medical parole, describes in documents obtained by CHRD how Hu’s health has steadily worsened during his two years and three months of detention. Hu, winner of the 2008 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver in 2006.

“Overwhelming evidence from the past two years demonstrates that Hu has not been receiving adequate care in prison medical facilities,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Director. “Prison officials must allow him to seek medical treatment from outside doctors and re-unite with his family.”

On the morning of March 30, Hu underwent testing in a prison hospital after a previous examination revealed a 3-cm growth on his liver. According to Zeng, he has remained in the prison hospital for treatment since that date; however, doctors have yet to provide the family with the results of their latest round of tests despite assurances they would do so by April 2. Whether or not the results come back positive, Zeng said, Hu’s health remains at serious risk. Since his transfer to the Beijing Municipal Prison in October 2008, Hu has lost weight and struggled with stomach ailments, persistent colds, and gallstones in addition to worsening of his cirrhosis. Zeng blames poor nutrition and living conditions at the prison for the precipitous decline in her husband’s condition.

According to regulations governing the release of prisoners on medical parole (罪犯保外就医执行办法), individuals with serious, life-threatening diseases are eligible for medical parole at any time; those who suffer from chronic diseases which have worsened despite long-term treatment are eligible after serving at least one-third of their sentence. Hu Jia meets both of these conditions. However, chances that Zeng will secure her husband’s release remain slim. Officials rejected a previous application for Hu’s release on medical parole in June 2008, and when Zeng delivered her latest application, she was told by prison authorities that Hu’s case involved “other considerations” beyond his medical condition.

“Prison officials must not allow political concerns to trump their humanitarian and human rights obligations to Hu Jia in light of his life-threatening medical conditions,” added Xia.

CHRD calls on the Beijing Bureau of Prison Administration to immediately grant Hu Jia release on medical parole. We believe that the decision to keep Hu in detention despite his serious illnesses, including possibly liver cancer, violates his right to be protected from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Furthermore, we reiterate our belief that Hu Jia’s incarceration is arbitrary, as he has been imprisoned solely for the nonviolent act of expressing his opinions. The right to freedom of expression is guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution.


Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan

Hu began working on AIDS issues in 2001. He is a co-founder of the Beijing Aizhixing Institute of Health Education and Loving Source, a grassroots organization dedicated to helping children from AIDS families. Hu later broadened his scope and has reported on many types of human rights violations, giving interviews to overseas press and writing about the plight of other activists. Hu and Zeng were placed under residential surveillance without legal authorization beginning in April 2004.

Despite restrictions on his freedom, Hu refused to be silenced, continuing to report on rights violations prior to the 2008 Olympic Games. Hu was taken from his home on December 27, 2007, and formally arrested on January 28, 2008, on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”.

In the first month of his detention, Hu was deprived access to legal counsel and to his family. He was repeatedly interrogated for up to 14 hours at a time, usually at night. On March 18, 2008, Hu was tried by the Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court, and on April 3, 2008, Hu was sentenced to three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment and one year’s deprivation of political rights for “inciting subversion of state power.”

Since Hu’s detention, Zeng and the couple’s infant daughter have been under varying degrees of residential surveillance.

Hu was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament in December 2008 and he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twice, in 2007 and 2008. He is currently imprisoned in Beijing Municipal Prison.

For More Information:

“Update on Imprisoned Activist Hu Jia and His Wife Zeng Jinyan,” August 25, 2008,

“Imprisoned Activist Hu Jia Still Denied Access to Adequate Medical Care,” June 12, 2008,

Submission on Hu Jia to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,” April 30, 2008,

Media Contacts:

Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 6937 or +1 301 547 9286

Jiang Yingying, Researcher (English and Mandarin), +852 8170 0237

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