Beijing Rights Activist Receives Death Threats, Car Vandalized


2014-09-19
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china-hu-jia-car-sept-2014.JPG Red paint covers the inside of Hu Jia's car in Beijing, Sept. 19, 2014.
Photo courtesy of Hu Jia's Twitter feed

Beijing-based veteran rights activist Hu Jia has received death threats by text message, while explosive substances were placed into his heavily vandalized vehicle during the trial of a fellow activist this week, Hu told RFA on Friday.

Hu, who was taken in for questioning on Wednesday by Beijing police on suspicion of "beating another person," received a text message on Thursday threatening to kill him, before discovering his car had been vandalized with red paint and a small explosive shell placed on the dashboard on Friday morning, he said.

Photos posted on Hu's Twitter account showed his Volkswagen sedan slathered in red paint, both inside and outside, on the driver's side, with a small black pot-like object placed behind the steering wheel.

Hu is a close friend and vocal supporter of detained Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, who stood trial on charges of "separatism" in the northwestern region of Xinjiang on Wednesday and Thursday.

"There haven't been any clues yet [about who might have done this]," Hu told RFA on Friday. "All I can say is that it was done by the same people who carried out the [earlier attacks]."

On July 16, Hu was set upon as he made his way back to his car on a Beijing street by people he identified at the time as "trained men," and likely "plainclothes cops."

Hu tweeted at the time that he was grabbed by some "plainclothes guys in black," grabbed by the throat, punched in the eye and nose, then kicked in the stomach.

Further threats and vandalism took place last month, including a death threat on Aug. 12 and damage to his parents' property on Aug. 26.

"It is clear that these attacks are escalating," said Hu, a long-time campaigner on AIDS issues and for civil rights in general who has served time in jail for subversion, as well as being subjected to prolonged "criminal detention" and periods of house arrest at his Beijing home.

He said he is convinced that the attacks are a covert form of intimidation by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

"The type of explosive they planted was a shell used by the Communist Party for ceremonial occasions," Hu said. "That's not something your average person can easily get hold of."

"The authorities knew I would go public with this if they planted explosives," Hu said. "They know they can't scare me, but they might scare some other people."

He said the vandalism and previous attacks seemed calculated to frighten off anyone thinking of opposing the Chinese government.

"They police said maybe the explosives were put there by someone with a private grudge against [me]," he said.

Asked if the authorities had taken steps to protect him against further attacks, Hu replied: "They won't send anyone to protect me, because I'm not a government official. It's a very difficult situation for me, because I don't know how things will develop."

Health at risk

Hu, who suffers from hepatitis B, said he has been warned that his activism may be damaging his health irreparably.

"The doctor told me very clearly that strenuous work and strong emotions will damage my liver and gall bladder," Hu said. "But I don't seem to be able to get away from an environment that makes me angry."

"During the past three days, I was put under house arrest because of Ilham Tohti's trial, and that will continue [on Friday and Saturday], although I don't know why," he added.

"It's hard to see how I'm going to get well."

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.

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.

More recently, Hu has been a vocal supporter of jailed Uyghur dissident Ilham Tohti, regularly speaking out against Chinese government policy in the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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