01/21/2008, 00.00
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EU: Free Hu Jia; the Olympics should not be a pretext for illegal arrests

The European parliament condemns the illegal arrest of the human rights activist Hu Jia and of his wife, and asks for their release. A stern warning to Beijing to respect its international obligations during the Olympic year. Meanwhile, solidarity with Hu is on the rise in China, although Beijing is blocking the websites that speak of the matter.

Strasbourg (AsiaNews) - The European parliament "srongly condemns the detention of Hu Jia and demands [from Beijing] his prompt release and that of all the dissidents who have been arrested and jailed for crimes of opinion". "China", continues the resolution passed on January 17, must not "use the Olympic Games as a pretext to arrest and illegally detain and imprison dissidents, journalists and human rights activists" and must "[put] an end to the harassment of Chinese human rights defenders, in order to demonstrate its commitment to human rights in its Olympic year".

Hu Jia, known all over China for his efforts against AIDS and in favour of human rights, had already been under house arrest for two years when he was imprisoned on December 27 under the accusation of "subversion against the state". There is great fear over his health, because he has liver disease and needs specialised medical care. His wife, Zeng Jinyan, is now under house arrest.

The European parliament is calling upon Beijing to honour its international obligations in regard to human rights and freedom of thought, to close "the so-called 'black jails'," which hold prisoners who might cause problems during the Olympic year, and to free all of the dissidents, including Hu and the lawyer Gao Zhisheng.

Meanwhile, protests are also increasing in China against the arrest of Hu Jia, and many Chinese have sent messages of solidarity toward him and his wife over the internet.

"“I am a neighbour”, read one of the comments on Zeng's blog, which is now blocked, “please tell me how I can deliver baby formula to you”. Zeng's ten-week-old daughter, also under "arrest", lives with her. Many supporters have sent her powdered milk, which has often been confiscated by the police.

Another writes: "This is to add my comment to the others, and to tell the world that the Chinese people love justice and we love the light. We are praying for you".

For months, the couple had been put under the surveillance of the police, who had driven away the foreign journalists.

The website of the magazine Minjian has been blocked since it published an article in support of Hu. Its director, Zhai Minglei, says that the government's reaction has been harsher than usual, because often no such censure is applied to moderate articles with a purely humanitarian perspective, like the one recently written for the magazine.

Teng Biao, Hu's lawyer, says that in recent months he has often been interrogated by the police, especially about an article written about Hu in September of 2007, on "The truth about China ahead of the Olympics", which describes in detail many human rights violations directly connected to the Olympics, such as the eviction of entire neighbourhoods and the illegal arrest of those who present petitions of protest to the  government.

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