Chinese rights activist Hu Jia was released from prison today after serving more than three years for subversion but is expected to face tight restrictions as have other key dissidents.
Hu was jailed in April 2008 — just months before the Beijing Olympic Games — after he used blogs, emails and interviews with foreign reporters to highlight rights abuses in China.
The 37-year-old, who suffers from a liver disease that has worsened during his time in jail, gained fame through campaigning for civil rights, environmental protection and the plight of China’s AIDS sufferers.
“After he is released, Hu Jia will be deprived of his political rights for one year, so in that one year he will not be able to meet with the media,” his wife Zeng Jinyan said on her Twitter account last week.
“During this time, he must treat his cirrhosis and take care of his family.”
Police have told Zeng her husband is not likely to enjoy a “normal” life after his release, remarks she has interpreted to mean he will likely be placed under house arrest like numerous dissidents who complete their jail terms.
Chen Guangcheng, a lawyer who exposed abuses in the “one-child” population control policy, has been under house arrest in east China since September when he completed a prison term of more than four years.
New York-based activist group Human Rights Watch on Friday urged the Chinese government not to subject Hu, his wife and three-year-old daughter to “house arrest or other extrajudicial deprivations of liberty.”
Sophie Richardson, the group’s Asia advocacy director, said in a statement that another form of detention would “show just how shallow the Chinese government’s ‘rule of law’ commitments are.”
Hu’s release will come just days after prominent artist Ai Weiwei was allowed to return home following nearly three months in police detention — part of a wider crackdown on government critics that began in mid-February.
Usually very outspoken, Ai has refused to talk about his detention or the conditions of his release, other than to say he cannot leave Beijing.
His wife just posted today on Twitter:
“On a sleepless night at 2:30, Hu Jia arrived at home. Safe, very happy. Needs to rest for a while. Thanks to each of you,” Zeng Jinyan wrote in the tweet.