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The Real China

9:27 AM, Mar 17, 2008 • By JENNIFER CHOU
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Tomorrow Beijing will put on trial one of its most ardent human rights campaigners. Hu Jia, 34, faces charges of "inciting subversion of state power." Evidence to be used against him includes articles he posted on an overseas Chinese-language website and statements he made during interviews with foreign journalists.

For his work as an activist, Hu, a devout Buddhist, has been called "modern China's conscience." He called attention to the plight of AIDS orphans whose parents were victims of a scandal involving tainted blood at public blood banks. In June 2004, he was detained for attempting to lay a wreath on Tiananmen Square to honor the victims of the 1989 crackdown on democracy demonstrators.

In February 2006, Hu was abducted by agents of the Beijing public security bureau, driven with a hood over his head to a rural location, and held captive for 41 days. Although suffering from hepatitis-B, Hu was denied medication while his kidnappers interrogated him concerning a hunger strike he had joined to protest police brutality in China.

Upon his release, Hu was kept under house arrest until February 2007. During this time, his wife was tailed by security agents wherever she went. In May 2007, Hu and his wife were both put under house arrest for "endangering state security." A video diary titled "Prisoners in Freedom City" depicting their life under surveillance by China's security apparatus can be seen here.

Hu Jia's current trouble with the government likely stems from his call for the international community to demand that Beijing fulfill its pledge to improve human rights ahead of the Olympics. This past September, Hu and Teng Biao, a legal scholar, co-authored an open letter titled "The real China and the Olympics." The letter documents a host of human rights abuses by the Chinese government and also states that:

When you come to the Olympic Games in Beijing, you will see skyscrapers, spacious streets, modern stadiums and enthusiastic people. You will see the truth, but not the whole truth, just as you see only the tip of an iceberg. You may not know that the flowers, smiles, harmony and prosperity are built on a base of grievances, tears, imprisonment, torture and blood.

On December 27, as Hu's wife was bathing their newborn daughter, security agents stormed into their apartment and dragged Hu away. He was formally charged with subversion on January 29.

On March 6, Hu's co-author, Teng Biao, was abducted by police from his home in Beijing. Upon his release two days later, Teng stated that he was not free to discuss the matter.

With less than five months to go before the Games, Beijing seems determined to silence its domestic critics. Is there hope yet? Last week Chinese officials found themselves scrambling to improve air quality after world marathon record-holder Haile Gebrselassie indicated that he would skip the competition in Beijing because the city's notorious smog presented a threat to his health. Will anyone object to competing in a country whose policies present a threat to their conscience?