China formally charges dissident with subversion

Other News Materials 1 February 2008 08:47 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - China has formally charged a well-known dissident with subversion, despite appeals from the European Union and the United States for his release, a rights group said on Friday.

The family of Hu Jia was told that prosecutors had decided to charge him with "inciting subversion of state power," Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said.

The state prosecutors notified the family in writing on Wednesday, just two days before the statutory limit for detention without charge, the group said.

The charge means Hu Jia faces a trial, which is likely to be closed, and potentially a long prison sentence.

"This charge is an insult to the diplomatic efforts of many countries who have expressed their views following the arrest of this free expression activist, six months ahead of the Olympic Games," Reporters Without Borders said.

Police have kept Hu's lawyers under close surveillance and prevented them from meeting Hu, it said.

His wife, Zeng Jinyan, and two-month-old daughter remain under house arrest at their apartment in a Beijing suburb.

Hans-Gert Pottering, president of the European Parliament, earlier this month urged China to release Hu immediately to show its commitment to upholding human rights in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in August.

"I very much hope that the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing will be an opportunity for China to demonstrate that a country hosting the world's most important sports event is committed to internationally recognized human rights standards including freedom of expression," Pottering said in a statement.

"The immediate release of Hu Jia would be an important signal in this direction," he said.

Pottering said Hu was "a representative of the peaceful struggle for freedom of expression in China."

The US State Department said US officials were "following closely" Hu's case and had raised it with the Chinese government.

Dozens of Chinese intellectuals and rights activists also called for his release.

Hu, 34, was formally arrested on December 27 after spending most of the previous two years under house arrest or other forms of detention.

He is best known for his advocacy for the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS in China, winning several international awards.