Zeng Jinyan speaks out on Hu Jia's sentencing

On the day after her husband's sentence to 3.5 years in prison for his blogging activities, house arrested blogger Zeng Jinyan wrote a letter explaining her side to their story. Here now thanks to one friendly netizen is an English translation:


Please tell me: is this a just verdict?

Zeng Jinyan, 4 April 2008

In a hearing on 3 April 2008, the court convicted Hu Jia (胡佳) and sentenced him to three years and six months imprisonment and subsequent deprivation of his political rights [1] for one year. They also confiscated his laptop computer, his wireless internet access card, his WiFi router, ZTE ADSL modem, an internet access card, one sheet of A4 printer paper with Cai Chu’s (蔡楚) e-mail address written on it, and his PHS limited-range mobile phone.

After the verdict was announced, I had to struggle with the state security squad police just for the right to walk by myself. They dropped me off at the Babaoshan subway station exit. A group of friends, some of whom I recognised, came running up to meet me. Many of them asked me: ‘Is this a just verdict?’

Now let me ask you: if someone in your family got sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment and one year of deprivation of their political rights for writing five articles and giving two interviews, having already been subjected to long term house arrest – would you think that just?

And let me ask President Hu Jintao and our various leaders responsible for the administration of justice: given that the Constitution accords priority to the protection of freedom of speech, does a verdict of three and a half years of imprisonment and one year of deprivation of one’s political rights for writing five articles and giving two interviews manifest the ‘spirit of the rule of law’? Does it exhibit the justice of our judicial system?

The ‘witnesses’ and ‘evidence’ relied on by the court and the ‘crime’ it found Hu Jia guilty of

I have read the decision carefully several times. (It contains a number of typographical errors.) [2] The court held that ‘the accused Hu Jia engaged in fabrication and slander and the incitement of others to overturn our country’s ruling power and socialist system, by means of articles published on the internet and interviews given to overseas media, with the aim of overturning the ruling power of our country’s people’s democratic dictatorship. His acts constitute the crime of incitement to subversion of state power, and merit punishment according to law.’ These are the essays on account of which Hu Jia was charged with this crime:

1. Catch the train of democracy: Wake up, East Asia’s sleeping lion. [3] This was originally a private letter Hu Jia wrote in 2001 to a friend. It is not known who added the title. The court did not actually rely on this article to convict Hu Jia. For when the police questioned the letter’s addressee Wang Lixiong (王力雄) and Hu Jia about it, neither of them could remember anything clearly, due to lapse of time.

2. The five other articles, which the court relied on for its conviction, were: Revered old Mr Lin Mu passed away at about 2 pm today [4], Guo Feixiong and Jiang Wei and the ‘Shenyang political earthquake [5], One Country Does Not Need Two Systems [6], The Political and Legal Authorities is creating a general atmosphere of terror in the run-up to the Seventeenth Communist Party Congress [7], and A series of rights violations against citizens before the National Holiday and the Seventeenth Communist Party Congress. [8]

3. The two interviews the court relied on for its conviction were entitled Hu Jia comments on the process of Lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s abduction [9] and Mounting a peaceful challenge to dictatorship. [10] It was said that these interviews given by Hu Jia were produced in the form of audio recordings, and that their content had been edited and the titles added by the interviewer.

Freedom of speech is protected by our Constitution as well as by international law. Hu Jia’s words did no harm to society. Instead they helped to alleviate the contradictions between some groups in society and the government. For instance, some petitioners once said that if it had not been for Hu Jia’s help in passing on reports about the wrongs they had suffered, they could only have taken resort to suicide, or even to blowing themselves up together with others. [11] And anyway, at the very least, citizens have a right to criticize the methods of government officials who violate citizens’ rights. ‘I may disagree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.’ (Voltaire). Locking someone up under house arrest just because you don’t like their acrid criticism, and then sending them to prison – who would have thought that it takes a court of law to do that kind of job? Those essays of Hu Jia’s can all be found on the internet. To readers, I suggest that you have a look at them for yourselves.

The court relied on the following witness statements. [12]

1. Zeng Jinyan (曾金燕): testified that Hu Jia was using his own white computer to go online.

2. Teng Biao (腾彪): testified that he knew Hu Jia, and that he knew that Hu Hia published essays online.

3. Qi Zhiyong (齐志勇): testified that he knew Hu Jia and that he knew that Hu Jia published essays online, that those essays were sent to the email address of Cai Chu, the Boxun editor, and that the voice on the tape the police gave him was Hu Jia’s.

4. Ye Minghua (叶明华): testified that Hu Jia had once rung him up to ask about the detention of his father Ye Guoqiang (叶国强) by the police, and that Hu had rung him a second time to tell him that he had posted an essay concerning the detention of Ye Guoqiang online on the Boxun website.

Let me just remind everyone at this point that while Hu Jia was in pre-trial detention, I was being kept under illegal house arrest and all my contact with the outside world was cut off. The plainclothes police agents at one point illegally moved into my home. They said to me, ‘If you don’t co-operate, we can detain you too.’ The police came to me several times to take my statements, occasions on which they elaborated, ‘if you don’t co-operate we can take you away too; then as a special kindness on our part you may have the child once every three hours to feed it.’ At last, on 12 February, I agreed to have my statement taken by them. The content of my statement is as described above: After Hu Jia was put into detention, Teng Biao was several times threatened with accusations of ‘the crime of inciting state subversion’ and requested to collaborate; his passport was confiscated, plainclothes police abducted and illegally detained him for two days, and he was subjected to frequent house arrests. Qi Zhiyong was forced to leave Beijing by the plainclothes police and had to stay out of town for over one month, after which time he was subjected to further house arrest. Ye Minghua’s father and cousin were formally detained on suspicion of ‘inciting state subversion’ and are currently at home awaiting trial having been released on bail. His uncle, Ye Guozhu (叶国柱), remains in prison, where he is serving his sentence.

How can it be inferred from these so called ‘witness statements’ that Hu Jia committed any crime? And from a procedural perspective, I would like to ask everyone in the world – but particularly the legal professionals: is it right to use the statements obtained from witnesses who were subjected to abductions, house arrests, and hostage-takings? Is that in accordance with the claim, made by Chinese government officials, that Hu Jia’s case would be handled according to the principle that ‘all are equal before the law’?

Now let us look at the other pieces of evidence used by the court:

1. The Internet Surveillance Centre of the Beijing Public Security Bureau’s Internet Security Supervision Squad [13] provided information, for each of the essays, about the domain names and websites they had been published on and then reposted to, as well as details of the servers used, the number of times they had been viewed, and the number of comments that had been posted on each of them;

2. The Beijing Internet Business Association’s Centre for the Use of Electronic Data as Expert Evidence in Court [14] provided ‘Expert evidence letter no. 1/2008’, testifying that pictures that had been obtained from Hu Jia’s computer were identical with those posted on the internet;

3. Public Security organs provided the essays downloaded from the internet, signed by Hu Jia;

4. Public Security organs provided the number of Hu Jia’s PHS mobile phone number phone 86000663;

5. Chinese Internet Providers (Group) Inc. [15] testified that the user of the PHS mobile phone was Hu Jia;

6. Public Security organs provided Hu Jia’s ID and records of his criminal detention.

I would like to ask everyone, what do these pieces of evidence prove? Do they prove that Hu Jia subverted this country’s state power?

Hu Jia’s and his family’s view on the matter

Lastly, let’s take a look at how the court sums up the statement Hu Jia made during his trial on 18 March 2008: ‘At trial, the defendant Hu Jia acknowledged the facts alleged by the prosecution.’ The announcement of the verdict on 3 April 2008 took about 20 minutes altogether and apart from answering the judge to say that he was ‘Hu Jia’, and nodding once in the direction of his lawyers, Hu Jia did not speak another word or make any other sign on this occasion. He did not even seem to notice his relatives. Apart from his mother and myself there were several housewives, students, and strange men – one of whom I saw falling asleep – in the audience. After the verdict had been announced I saw that Hu Jia, looking apathetic, turned around as though he wanted to leave. I called out to him, ‘Hu Jia!’ At that time he was only about one metre away from me, but he did not hear me. Then he was led away by the police.

Hu Jia acknowledged that he had written those essays. But that does not mean, of course, that he had committed a crime. True, Hu Jia wrote and published essays for the whole world to read. In doing so, he was only exercising his constitutional right to free speech. The law also gives citizens the right to remain silent during a criminal investigation. [16] But Hu Jia is a human being, not a God whom guns and knives cannot penetrate. During the first month of his detention he was interrogated almost every evening over periods of 6-14 hours. During the day he still had to participate in the activities of the police detention centre, such as for instance each morning’s ‘sitting on a bench’ session, where from 6 am to 12 pm one has to sit motionless on a bench. According to what the state security squad police told me, the so-called interrogations for the most part consisted of ‘doing persuasion and education work’ on Hu Jia, ‘to get him to repent and change his mind so that he could be returned to society sooner.’ Should we call that indoctrination or brainwashing? [17] He could not see any relatives or friends who could give him help and support, and he had barely any opportunities to get fresh air. How could he have been able to show any resistance under such conditions of extreme fatigue and perhaps grave danger to his health? Sleep deprivation and deprivation of opportunities to go out for fresh air all violate Chinese police detention centre regulations.

When the announcement of the verdict was over, the judge asked us, the family members, if we had any questions. So I told in detail how Hu Jia has been subjected to illegal house arrest and inhumane treatment, and asked the judge whether these factors had been taken into account. The judge gave an explanation to the effect that it was his professional responsibility to make a decision based on what the prosecution and defence had said, and that what I had mentioned was outside the scope of his professional responsibility.

I insisted on leaving the court by myself but the state security squad police would not allow it. Their attitude was very bad and one of them was really uncivilized, but on the whole they still exercised some self-restraint. I said to them, ‘the court is supposed to be a place that protects human dignity and citizens’ rights. Are you going to unlawfully restrict my rights even here?’ The employees of the court also kept persuading me that I should sit in a police car. I said very sadly to the court employees, ‘our lot will not improve while China has no genuine rule of law.’ Immediately one of the state security squad police officers cut in, saying sharply ‘and that is why you want to subvert state power…’ I retorted, ‘you said that. All I want is genuine rule of law!’

Hu Jia agreed that the lawyers should make a not guilty plea. But he also hoped that the procedure would be over quickly, and above all he did not want anyone else to become implicated in his case. (I think perhaps he was thinking of Lawyer Teng Biao there, because they had jointly published an essay and Teng had already been questioned several times.) He said to Lawyer Li that he did not want even a minute’s delay; he wanted to get home and hold his baby. He did not disclose any further details about what had happened to him in the police detention centre. He did not say anything, so we don’t know. But there are some things I dare not talk about because I fear that it might lead to further retaliation. They have so many ways of inflicting pain on him without beating him. And that may damage his health even more. As his wife, I hope that he will consider his health and take care of himself.

I am terrified. When they said to me, ‘if you don’t co-operate, we can detain you too’ and ‘if you don’t co-operate we can take you away too; then as a special kindness on our part you may have the child once every three hours to feed it,’ I asked myself over and over what I should do. In 1993 when Beijing lost to Sydney its bid to host the Olympics, Hu Jia cried. He was so happy that the Chinese people were finally able to host the Olympics, but he wasn’t hoping for an Olympic Games that would tread on people’s human rights; he was not hoping for an Olympic Games held at the cost of the pain and suffering of weak and powerless ordinary people. He was hoping for an Olympic Games that would really make the Chinese people proud, and that was why he criticized official corruption and called for improvements of the human rights situation, again and again. Now this had landed him in prison. I feel great pain and hopelessness. But no matter what, I will do my best to protect my family, and do all I can to allow Hu Jia to come back home as soon as possible.

Who will be able to meet with President Hu Jintao? If you meet the President, please ask him on my behalf what he thinks: was Hu Jia’s verdict just?

Appendix: Xinhua News Agency article, English and Chinese versions.




Hu Jia sentenced to 3.5 years in jail

Hu Jia was sentenced Thursday by the Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court to three and half years imprisonment, with one year deprivation of political rights, for subverting the state. The verdict said Hu, a married father aged 34 and the holder of a college degree, libeled the Chinese political and social systems, and instigated subversion of the state, which is a crime under Chinese law. Considering Hu’s confession of crime and acceptance of punishment, the court decided the ruling with leniency and announced a less harsh prison sentence. The court heard that from August 2006 to October 2007, Hu published articles on overseas-run websites, made comments in interviews with foreign media, and repeatedly instigated other people to subvert the Chinese political and socialist systems. In his two website articles, ‘China Political Law-enforcement Organs Create Large-scale Horror ahead of CPC National Congress’, and ‘One Country Doesn’t Need Two Systems’, Hu spread malicious rumors, libel and instigation, in an attempt to subvert the state’s political and socialist systems, the court said in the verdict. The articles written by Hu and his interviews were widely relayed by overseas-run websites, the court said.

Link: http://www.peacehall.com/news/gb/china/2008/04/200804042040.shtml


[1] Including the right to free speech under Chinese law. Article 54 (2) PRC Criminal Code.
[2] Examples of typographical errors are provided in the original.
[3] 赶上民主列车时 东亚睡狮猛醒日.
[4] 林牧老先生于今日下午14:00前后过世.
[5] 郭飞雄和江伟与〈沈阳政坛地震〉.
[6] 一国无需两制.
[7] 中共十七大之前 中国政法系统大范围制造恐怖气氛.
[8] 国庆及十七大来临 警方连续侵犯公民权利.
[9] 胡佳谈高智晟律师被绑架前后的情况.
[10] 向专制的体制发起和平的挑战.
[11] Directed against those who had wronged them.
[12] The statements were taken before the trial and none of the witnesses were allowed to attend the trial.
[13] 北京市公安局公共信息网络安全监察处监控中心.
[14] 北京市网络行业协会电子数据司法鉴定中心.
[15] 中国网通(集团)有限公司.
[16] The P.R.C. Criminal Procedure Code actually requires criminal suspects to answer truthfully when questioned about their case. Hu Jia’s lawyers argued that in this case, the truth could at any rate not support a guilty conviction. To quote: ‘Article 93 When interrogating a criminal suspect, the investigators shall first ask the criminal suspect whether or not he has committed any criminal act, and let him state the circumstances of his guilt or explain his innocence; then they may ask him questions. The criminal suspect shall answer the investigators’ questions truthfully, but he shall have the right to refuse to answer any questions that are irrelevant to the case/ 侦查人员在讯问犯罪嫌疑人的时候,应当首先讯问犯罪嫌疑人是否有犯罪行为,让他陈述有罪的情节或者无罪的辩解,然后向他提出问题。犯罪嫌疑人对侦查人员的提问,应当如实回答。但是对与本案无关的问题,有拒绝回答的权利.’
[17] [Note in the original:] The highly secretive persuasion and education session conducted with Hu Jia to make him ‘correct his thinking’ are by no means a new method. The scholar Zhu Hongzhao (朱鸿召) once mentioned to Wu Si (吴思) that in October 1942 a meeting of high cadres of the Northwestern Bureau had the purpose of making certain persons who did not share Mao Zedong’s viewpoint change their mind; the meeting lasted 88 days and it was not dissolved as long as they had not changed their view. (Wu Si, The hidden order – decoding history’s chess game [隐蔽的秩序-拆解历史弈局] at p. 181.


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