|Zeng Jinyan International Herald Tribune国际先驱论坛报
Published: August 25, 2006
BEIJING A "green, high-tech and people’s Olympics" in Beijing 2008? Nothing is more ironic than this official slogan as I look out of my window at my home in Bobo Freedom City in the Beijing suburbs, not far from where the Games are intended to bring glory to my country.
I live here with my husband, Hu Jia, an environmentalist and AIDS activist. We chose to move here because we loved the area’s greenery and the Bohemian lifestyle it promised, as well as the idea of a "freedom city" in which civil rights were respected. But instead we have often found ourselves under house arrest or round-the-clock surveillance.
Since we moved in two years ago, state security police officers have been frequent visitors to Freedom City. My husband has been repeatedly harassed, including being detained by plainclothes police, without any legal procedure, for 41 days earlier this year.
National holidays, politically sensitive dates and visits by foreign leaders, all become "black dates" for us, when we and many other human-rights and democracy activists in Beijing are routinely deprived of our freedom of movement. In 2005, Hu lost his freedom for a total of 126 days, during which he was barred from medical checkups for his chronic hepatitis B.
In February 2006, just before the opening of the annual session of the "two meetings" – the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and the National People’s Congress – Hu was abducted by plainclothes police and simply vanished.
I went around Beijing, demanding that law-enforcement and government officials conduct a search for my missing husband. I met a wall of silence and repeated denials of any knowledge of his whereabouts. After persistent appeals to international agencies and the news media, Hu was finally released by the state security police, who had all along denied responsibility. Blind-folded, he was dropped off by a police vehicle on the roadside near our home. He was frail, his liver condition seriously aggravated due to the lack of treatment for his hepatitis during incarceration.
When I was running around looking for traces of Hu, I discovered that his case was far from unique. I met families whose loved ones were also suffering from such inhumane treatment – arbitrary detention, abduction and forced disappearance – for their efforts to defend human rights, including the family of Chen Guangcheng, the blind activist from Linyi City, in Shandong Province, who on Thursday was sentenced to more than four years in prison.
For many days now, Hu has again been subjected to house arrest. Police officers standing guard outside our flat even prevent us from taking walks in the enclosed grounds of Bobo Freedom City. I am followed and watched wherever I go. My colleagues have been told to pull out of our joint business venture, my friends are threatened and driven away, and my neighbors questioned and harassed if they talk to me.
Four official vehicles and a dozen policemen are camped downstairs, observing every movement in our flat. When I dialed the emergency police number, 110, to report illegal tailing, the person who answered my call just hung up. I wrote to the mayor of Beijing to seek help, but I got no answer.
This is how we have to live in Beijing. Our aspirations for freedom and respect for fellow human beings are suffocated, our care for each other as fellow citizens is being destroyed. Beijing fears the force of justice and conscience. Its law-enforcement officials resort to illegal means under cover of darkness to isolate and threaten social activists.
This is the Beijing that will be hosting the "green, high-tech and people’s Olympics" in two years’ time.
Zeng Jinyan is a businesswoman and an activist involved in environmental issues and the rights of people infected with HIV/AIDS.