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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 January 2008, 20:57 GMT
Fears for rights as Beijing 2008 nears
By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

Hu Jia (October 2007)
Hu Jia was arrested in his dining room, two days after Christmas
A few days ago, about 30 police officers broke into the home of Chinese activist Hu Jia and took him away.

His wife, fellow activist Zeng Jinyan, is now under house arrest. At least 10 security personnel guard her home.

Mr Hu's arrest comes as China celebrates the start of one of its most important years in recent history.

This summer, all eyes will be on it as it plays host to the Olympic Games.

Foreign campaigners say Beijing has not fulfilled its promise to improve human rights ahead of the Olympics - a charge the Chinese government flatly denies.

But the country's human rights record - including Mr Hu's case - will be under scrutiny as much as its sporting endeavours.

'Inciting subversion'

Mr Hu was arrested two days after Christmas, during the afternoon, as he sat at his computer in the dining room of his home.

When officers barged into his flat, his wife was in the bedroom, feeding their two-and-a-half-month-old baby.

According to his arrest warrant, issued by the Beijing Public Security Bureau, the 34-year-old is accused of inciting subversion.

We've said very clearly that we want full respect of human rights
Olympic chief Jacques Rogge, 2004
His wife has not been told where he is being held.

Mr Hu is a well-known HIV/Aids activist who also helps publicise other human rights cases in China.

He has been arrested several times before.

On the night he was taken away, six police officers stayed at Mr Hu's home to guard his wife, her mother and their child.

Telephone lines and internet access to the home, in an eastern Beijing suburb, have been cut off.

When the BBC visited the couple's flat, we found Ms Zeng was being closely guarded by at least 10 public security officers.

We arrived as three of them were escorting her as she walked her baby in a shared garden next to her apartment.

Zeng Jinyan (October 2007)
Zeng Jinyan and her family are guarded by at least 10 people
After a lengthy check of our identification papers, officers finally refused to allow us to interview Ms Zeng, who also publicises Chinese human rights abuses.

Four of them then pushed the 24-year-old back towards her apartment.

"I try to be strong because I need to feed my baby, but during the first three days after my husband's arrest I lost 2kg," she said as she was forced away.

Still clutching her baby, she added: "I don't know where my husband is, because I have no contact with the outside world."

The officer in charge at the scene refused to say why Ms Zeng could not leave her home or why she could not be formally interviewed.

Redefining human rights

When China made its bid to stage this year's Olympic Games, it said the event would lead to improvements in the country's human rights situation.

The International Olympic Committee, which awarded Beijing the games, said it would keep a close eye on that record in the run-up to the event.

"We've said very clearly that we want full respect of human rights," Olympic chief Jacques Rogge told the BBC in 2004.

The democracy and human rights of the people will be vigorously enhanced and safeguarded
Liu Jingmin, Beijing Olympic organising committee
But critics say the detention of Hu Jia, and his wife's house arrest, shows China is doing little to fulfil its promise.

Some even claim the Chinese government is cracking down harder on dissenters as the Olympics approach, to prevent embarrassing demonstrations.

"As China prepares to welcome the world in 2008, it has to demonstrate that it respects human rights and the rule of law," said Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China, in response to Mr Hu's detention.

"Otherwise the promises made by the Chinese government to its people and the world will become increasingly meaningless."

Beijing sidesteps complaints about human rights abuses in China partly by redefining the term.

It claims human rights have more to do with providing people with food, clothing and shelter than with freedom of speech.

Liu Jingmin, executive vice-president of the Beijing Olympics organising committee, claimed in October that the games were promoting human rights in China.

"The Olympic preparatory work is progressing concurrently with China's development," he said.

"In the process, the democracy and human rights of the people will be vigorously enhanced and safeguarded."

If he could be contacted for a comment, Hu Jia would probably disagree.



SEE ALSO
Web dissent on the rise in China
16 Oct 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Chinese rights activist detained
08 Sep 06 |  Asia-Pacific

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