26 Jun 2011

China’s Wen Jiabao in UK as dissident Hu Jia is freed

Human rights campaigner Hu Jia is released from jail while China’s Premier Wen Jiabao continues his two-day stay in the UK, visiting the Chinese-owned MG plant in Longbridge.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits the MG Longbridge plant (Reuters)

Hu Jia was convicted in 2008 for “inciting subversion of state power” after criticising human rights restrictions in China.His wife, Zeng Jinyan – also a prominent activist – told Reuters: “He is back home with his parents and me.

“I don’t know if he can speak later. At the moment, I want everything to be peaceful. I’m worried that doing interviews at this stage might cause problems.”

Hu Jia’s release comes days after the release on bail of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. The Xinhua News Agency said on Wednesday that he had been freed after confessing to tax evasion.

I want everything to be peaceful. I’m worried that doing interviews might cause problems. Zeng Jinyan, wife of Hu Jia

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao touched down in the UK on Saturday evening for a UK-China “Strategic Summit”.

Today Mr Wen visited the MG car plant at Longbridge, near Birmingham, which is now owned by China’s Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation.

The first new MG for 16 years rolled off the Longbridge production line earlier this year.

Mr Wen, who arrived in the UK from Hungary, was also due to meet Prime Minister David Cameron during the visit. He leaves for Germany on Monday.

Vocal critic

Hu Jia was detained in late 2007, then tried and convicted in 2008 on subversion charges arising from criticism of the Chinese Government in internet writings and interviews with foreign reporters.

China often uses the broad charge of “inciting subversion” to punish dissidents, and when Hu was convicted state media said he had bowed to the accusations against him.

Hu had previously pursued an energetic career as an environmental protection campaigner, advocate for rural victims of Aids, and a vocal critic of China’s restrictions on political dissent.

He had also criticised China’s controls on the practice of Buddhism inside Tibet and voiced sympathy for exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

Interviewed by Channel 4 News in 2008 ahead of the Beijing Olympics, Hu Jia described how he had been detained and interviewed for six hours on suspicion of “harming state security”.

He went on to discuss a film he had made whose intention had been to show people what it was like to be under house arrest and to be stalked and harassed by the authorities. “I’m only one of many Chinese citizens held illegally,” he said.

“This film provides evidence of the harm the Chinese Government inflicts on its citizens – which it denies.”