Fears For Hu Jia's Health

The Chinese dissident is kept under house arrest as his health situation worsens.

This undated photo shows rights activist Hu Jia (R) sharing a light moment with Chen Guangcheng after Chen's escape from house arrest in June.

Authorities in Beijing are holding prominent rights activist Hu Jia under house arrest ahead of the 18th Congress of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, as doctors cited fears for his deteriorating health.

"The set-up is basically the same as for the 17th Party Congress [last year], but it's tighter," Hu said by telephone from his home on Wednesday. "They won't even let me go to the supermarket to buy groceries."

Hu, who has hepatitis B, said doctors were concerned at his deteriorating health.

"The only time they didn't stop me going out was the four hospital appointments I had, but if I do go out, they follow right behind me."

"The doctors...thought I might have a tumor...and they found that I have hemangioma and liver cysts," he said, adding that his illness had worsened considerably during his 41-day 'disappearance' in 2006.

"I had cirrhosis of the liver after that time, and in a large proportion of cases this develops into necrosis of the liver, liver cancer, fatal liver diseases like that," he said.

"They are still very worried about me," Hu said.

'Lost appetite'

Hu said he was currently only able to stroll around the grounds of his apartment block to get some fresh air.

"I can't go out of the courtyard," he said. "My mood is pretty low; I'm not getting much exercise and I've lost my appetite."

Earlier this month, Hu staged a 34-hour hunger strike in protest at his continuing house arrest and beatings by police, following threats from authorities regarding online posts.

He said he hoped to travel to visit his parents in the eastern province of Anhui this week.

"I don't know if they will give my parents any trouble because of it," he said. "They are terrified, because the police [said] they would take special measures to deal with me ahead of the 18th Party Congress," Hu said.

"The authorities really wish I would be out of Beijing for the 18th Party Congress...and at least they haven't said that they will stop me going," he added.

"My parents have been saying repeatedly that I should go back home with them, or else my life could be in danger."

Hu was handed a three-and-a-half year jail term in 2008 for "incitement to subversion" after he wrote online articles critical of China's hosting of the Olympics.

Key information source

A campaigner for human rights and AIDS victims in China, Hu was awarded the Sakharov Prize, a major human rights award, by the European Union in 2008.

He had acted as a key source of information for foreign media on human rights and environmental violations, government abuses, judicial injustices, and the mistreatment of dissidents.

Beijing has intensified a nationwide clampdown on dissident writers and rights activists ahead of the Party congress. Police have launched a "stability" drive, with many rights activists and dissidents reported to be under house arrest, either in their homes or in out-of-town locations like holiday resorts.

Others are being held under criminal detention on charges they say are excuses to limit their freedom over the transition period.

Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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