Last week, Ms Zeng applied to Beijing prison authorities for medical parole, concerned that his cirrhosis might lead to cancer of the liver. After her mother-in-law’s phone call with the director of the prison hospital, she asked for the results of her husband’s medical tests.
Hu Jia, 36, is known across China for his campaigns in favour of AIDS patients. He is also a supporter of democratic reform, complete religious freedom and a change in China’s policy vis-à-vis Tibet, which should be able to decide its own future.
Over time, he has become a crucial player among Chinese dissidents. He has written articles, prepared legal cases and gathered information for the international community about non-violent opponents to China’s Communist regime. He has worked with foreign media and embassies, providing them with information about human rights violations by the Communist Party.
His latest conviction landed him in prison for three and half years after he wrote an open letter to pro-democracy lawyer Teng Biao in which he criticised the Communist Party for using the 2008 Beijing Olympics for political propaganda purposes.
Some international human rights groups and foreign political leaders have backed the request for medical parole, but this has had little effect on Beijing,
“I have cirrhosis because I've been fighting against police in the past five years," Hu said in an interview in early 2008. "The Chinese believe anger harms your liver. There have been too many fights, too much bleeding."
Whatever the case, Chinese authorities do not appear willing to change their tune when it comes to freedom of expression.
In Hubei, police placed Peng Baoquan in a mental hospital. He had complained that party officials in Shiyan County were guilty of gross misconduct. Agents took him into custody on 9 April as he was taking pictures of about 20 petitioners protesting outside a hotel demanding justice. Inside, local Communist Party officials were holding a meeting.
Throwing dissidents and demonstrators into “black jails” (in state-owned hostels, hotels, nursing homes, and mental hospitals) has increasingly become a routine practice in recent years.
In so doing, police can eliminate a problem without having to investigate and prove in a court of law charges laid against the accused.