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State Police Kidnap Human Rights Activists for Participating in the Hunger Strike Movement

Prominent AIDS activist Hu Jia mysteriously disappears from his home in Beijing for 41 days.

"Come home, come home! No matter where you are, come to me!" Zeng Jinyan cried on the phone. These were her words on March 28, 2006, when she heard the voice of her husband, Hu Jia, for the first time in 41 days.

For 41 days, Hu Jia, a well-known AIDS activist in Beijing, seemed to have totally vanished from the face of the earth. No one knew what had happened to him or of his whereabouts, despite his wife’s tireless appeals to the police authorities and attention from international organizations, including the United Nations. The security police, who had been monitoring him closely, denied having taken him away. When he was finally released, his captors dumped him in a remote area and he had to walk for an hour to get home. A preliminary medical exam found signs of cirrhosis of his liver, due to the harsh conditions and lack of medication while he was in police custody. This is a serious complication of viral hepatitis that can lead to liver failure and cancer.

Radio Free Asia interviewed Hu Jia after his release. On February 16, Mr. Hu planned to attend a non-governmental HIV/AIDS conference. Because he was under house arrest, the police were charged with keeping him in their custody. They put him into a police car and promptly headed off, but not in the direction of the conference. The police wrapped Mr. Hu’s head in a black cloth and took him to a village on the outskirts of Beijing, where he was interrogated for the next 40 days.

Hu Jia was not the only one taken into custody. At least several dozen others were also arrested.

Qi Zhiyong, a human rights activist who became handicapped as a result of the June 4th Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, disappeared on February 15, one day before Mr. Hu’s arrest. At about the same time, Wen Haibo and Ma Wendou, Attorney Gao Zhisheng’s assistants, were arrested on separate occasions. Ouyang Xiaorong, a 32-year-old computer programmer who helped Gao Zhisheng organize a hunger-strike protest, was arrested on February 16. Yu Zhijina, one of the "Three Tiananmen Square Gentlemen," was arrested in Changsha City, Hunan Province, on February 18. Meanwhile Zhao Xin, a 38-year-old June 4th activist, was taken away from his parents’ home by police on February 21.

It has become routine that each year, before and during Beijing’s annual so-called "Two Conferences" (referring to the People’s Congress, this year held on March 5-14, and the Political Consultation Conference held on March 3-13 this year) all of the well-known dissidents and human rights activists in China are put under surveillance or house arrest.

In previous years, police usually held such activists for only a couple of days during these so-called "sensitive periods," but this time police abducted them without notifying their next of kin. It was as if they simply evaporated into thin air.{mospagebreak}

Hu Jia was interrogated every day during his detention. The issue of concern was the massive "Hunger Strike Relay" initiated by Attorney Gao Zhisheng on February 4, 2006, to protest the regime’s brutal treatment of human rights lawyer Guo Fexiong when Attorney Guo was investigating the massacre of farmers in Shanwei Village, Guangdong Province.

All the people mentioned above who were arrested were participants or organizers of the Hunger Strike Relay. Hu Jia was one of the leading organizers.

The arrests seemed to have added more fuel to the flames of protest. As news of the Hunger Strike Relay spread, a worldwide hunger strike in support of Attorney Gao and against persecution began in homes and in public places, with tens of thousands of people participating. In Shandong Province alone, at least 3,000 people participated. The date was March 6, right before the opening of the "Two Conferences."

The arrest of a group of students from Lanzhou University in Gangsu Province, in early March after they announced their participation in the Hunger Strike Relay prompted another campaign against ongoing persecution by the Chinese communist government. Dubbed the "Blue Ribbon Movement," this anti-persecution campaign supports the students.

According to reports, about 10,000 people in Suozhou City, Shanxi Province, all wearing blue ribbons, conducted hunger strikes on March 16. Blue ribbons have been seen all over at least 12 provinces. The movement is now underway.

This is the first time in China’s history that large numbers of people are on hunger strikes supporting one another across the country, in opposition to the communist regime’s violations of human rights. The Hunger Strike Relay is done at home, and anyone can start at any time. The authorities have yet to find a way to quash it. After all, how effective could the tanks used in Tiananmen Square be in this instance?