China's Rights Struggle 'Urgent'

A former top official welcomes a European prize awarded to jailed Chinese activist Hu Jia.
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Bao Tong at his Beijing home, April 2008.
Bao Tong at his Beijing home, April 2008.
HONG KONG—Human rights, the rule of law, and even the country's status as a republic are in grave danger in China, according to a former top Communist Party aide.

In an essay lauding the European Parliament's decision to award the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to jailed AIDS activist Hu Jia, former high-ranking cadre Bao Tong said the fight to defend human rights and the rule of law had now entered the lives of ordinary Chinese people at every social level.

"The rights of all Chinese citizens, the entire legal system, and even the republic itself are now in great danger," warned Bao from under house arrest at his Beijing home, where he has been held since his release from jail in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement.

Violations of human rights and reactions against those violations are now taking place across the land."
Bao Tong

"The civil rights movement in all its forms represents China's greatest force for progress," said Bao, whose political patron, the late former premier Zhao Ziyang, was toppled from power for trying to talk to the protesting students.

"Protecting human rights also means protecting the law, and saving the country," Bao said. "Violations of human rights and reactions against those violations are now taking place across the land."

He cited official figures as showing that "mass incidents," many of which are in protest at official moves to develop land or property, have been on the rise since 1994, topping 80,000 incidents during 2005.

EU 'supports activists'

Bao said that with the award to Hu, the European Union had extended its support to a fight to defend human rights that had now become a common feature of millions of Chinese people's lives.

"It has entered the daily lives of ordinary Chinese people, even as their violation has become the meat and drink of bureaucrat-politicians and the market elite," Bao wrote.

"It affects people's land, houses and apartments, personal freedom and safety, water sources, and air quality. It affects everyone and their friends and loved ones. No one can escape it."

"Remember this: We live in the thick of the struggle for human rights, and the struggle for our rights takes place in the thick of our daily lives."

Beijing's No.1 Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Hu Jia to 3-1/2 years in jail for "incitement to subversion" in April after he wrote articles online critical of China’s hosting of the Olympics.

Hu, a well-known AIDS activist who also suffers from Hepatitis B, was detained Dec. 27 after spending months under virtual house arrest because of his civil rights lobbying on behalf of disenfranchised people affected by the Olympics.

His arrest came after he published a number of articles online calling for human rights, in a campaign that was linked to Beijing’s hosting of the Olympics this summer.

The Sakharov Prize has been awarded to individuals or organizations for their efforts on behalf of human rights since 1988. Past recipients include Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma.

Original essay by Bao Tong. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.





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