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NEWS: Chinese AIDS Activist Sent To Prison

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Chinese AIDS Activist Sent To Prison

by The Associated Press Posted: April 3, 2008 - 11:00 am ET

(Beijing) An outspoken Chinese civil rights activist was sentenced Thursday to three-and-a-half- years in prison on subversion charges, a ruling that drew international criticism ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

Hu Jia, 34, is the most prominent activist to be tried and sentenced in a recent ongoing clampdown on dissent.

He has been involved in key civil liberties issues, from HIV/AIDS awareness to environmental rights. In recent years, while largely under house arrest, he has served as a hub linking activists across China with the outside world.

Hu was convicted of charges of "inciting subversion of state power," based on Internet articles he had written and interviews he gave to foreign media, said his lawyer, Li Fangping.

Beijing routinely uses the charge of subversion to imprison dissidents for years. Hu had pleaded not guilty.

"We're happy that he was not charged with a more severe crime but three years and six months, we still think is unacceptable," Li said.

Hu has 10 days to appeal the sentence but that decision has not yet been made, Li said.

Hu was calm and poised at the sentencing at the Beijing No. 1 People's Intermediate Court, for which he was "emotionally prepared," his lawyer said. No diplomats or journalists were allowed inside the courtroom during the trial, though his wife and mother were present.

The court verdict said "Hu spread malicious rumors, and committed libel in an attempt to subvert the state's political power and socialist system," according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Hu's wife, activist Zeng Jinyan, said the police had been watching her around the clock, making her even more worried about her husband's safety.

"If they can treat me like this so brazenly without any legal means, I can't imagine what they'll do next to me and Hu Jia when no one's watching. I'm terrified," she told The Associated Press outside her home.

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Susan Stevenson expressed disappointment over the verdict on the "specious" charge, saying the world was closely watching China's progress on human rights ahead of August's Olympic Games.

"In this Olympic year, we urge China to seize the opportunity to put its best face forward and take steps to improve its record on human rights and religious freedom," she said.

Amnesty International condemned the sentence, saying it "betrays promises made by Chinese officials that human rights would improve in the run-up to the Olympics."

"This verdict is a slap in the face for Hu Jia and a warning to any other activists in China who dare to raise human rights concerns publicly," said Mark Allison of the East Asia Team of Amnesty International.

The European Union also called for Hu's immediate release, spokesman William Fingleton said.

"We said clearly before the trial that he should not be detained in the first place, and he should be released," he said.

Li said earlier this month that Hu's indictment cited comments he made during interviews with foreign media and articles he wrote that were posted on Boxun.com, a Chinese-language Web site that is banned in China.

Boxun.com, based in North Carolina, carries reports and essays on a wide range of issues rarely seen in the Chinese state media, from corruption cases to calls for greater democracy.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao avoided mentioning Hu by name when questioned about the case in a news conference last month and denied that Beijing was rounding up government critics ahead of the Olympics.

"China is a country ruled by law, and all these issues will be dealt with in accordance with law," Wen said. "As far as the critics' view that China is trying to arrest dissidents before the Olympics, there is no such issue at all."

?365Gay.com 2008


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Beijing thinks that anything can be solved by executing a few people or throwing them in jail.

Sorta like the excellent way they handled SARS by ignoring it until they had over 100,000 people sick from it and had jailed an infectious disease specialist of the health ministry who had suggested a quarantine early on.

Apparently it is easier for Beijing to absorb the deaths of a few thousand people than do the right thing.

If they show similar wisdom and foresight when Avian Flu breaks out, we're all f*cked.

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