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China Cracks Down On Dissent

The Chinese government continues its repression of human rights defenders and activists. As reported by international media, security agents broke into the home of human rights activist Hu Jia in December and detained him under the charge of "intention to subvert state authority." Since then, he has reportedly been formally arrested under the same charge.

Mr. Hu rose to prominence as an advocate for AIDS patients in China's rural areas and recently worked to support the legal rights of activists who have been arrested or harassed. He has also worked on behalf of displace peasants who protested the confiscation of their land. He and his wife Zeng Jinyan spent much of 2006 under house arrest in their apartment. Ms. Zeng is reportedly now under constant surveillance in the couple's home in Beijing, along with their newborn daughter.

In recent months, several other dissidents have been jailed. They reportedly include a former factory worker in northeastern China who collected ten-thousand signatures for an online petition titled, "We Want Human Rights, Not the Olympics." Others who have been detained include Liu Jie, a defender of land rights in Beijing; Gao Zhisheng, a human rights attorney; and Lu Gengsong, an online dissident in Zhejiang Province.

Chinese human rights activists have taken to using the Internet as a tool to expose government abuses. In response, the Chinese government has restricted access to many websites. Authorities recently announced that only state-sanctioned companies would be allowed to broadcast video and audio files on the Internet.

According to the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders, China has jailed at least fifty online dissidents, more than any other country in the world and blocked more than two-thousand, five-hundred websites. Mr. Hu used his own website to post updates about other dissidents and peasant protests.

Hu Jia has not been forgotten. More than sixty intellectuals have signed a petition calling for his immediate release. A well-known rights lawyer, Xu Zhiyong, posted a long open letter online to Chinese President Hu Jintao, calling Mr. Hu "modern China's conscience."

Mr. Hu and others like him have consistently worked within China's legal system to protect the rights of their fellow citizens. These types of activities support China's efforts to institute the rule of law and should be applauded, not suppressed or punished.