China Releases AIDS Activist, Film-Maker Still Detained


2006.03.21
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Detained documentary film-maker and Global Voices blogger Wu Hao. Photo: courtesy of Global Voices

HONG KONG—Chinese authorities have released a social activist best known for his work with rural communities infected with HIV/AIDS, but are still holding a documentary film-maker who was researching the country’s underground churches.

Chinese state security police dropped off Hu Jia near his home in Beijing late in the afternoon, his wife Zeng Jinyan told reporters, after posting the news of his release on her personal weblog, entitled "Where is Hu Jia?"

"He was set free this afternoon...I saw him at about five o'clock this afternoon, and he called me before that. But I'm still not sure about all the details," Zeng told RFA's Cantonese service. "A lot has happened, so I can't really say any more right now...He told me to thank everyone for their concern."

Hu had been missing since mid-February and was widely believed to have been detained by police. State security police had placed Hu under 24-hour surveillance before his detention, thought to be for helping organize a nationwide hunger strike to protest police brutality against civil-rights activists.

Film-maker still behind bars

Hu is a respected AIDS activist in China and the United Nation's AIDS arm, UNAIDS, had raised his case with the government. He made frequent trips to AIDS-stricken villages to deliver money, clothes and toys, and regularly offered support to poor farmers and city dwellers who contracted the disease through unsafe blood transfusions.

Meanwhile, activists continued to campaign for the release of Wu Hao, a documentary filmmaker who lived in the United States from 1992-2004. Wu was detained by the Beijing division of China’s State Security Bureau on the afternoon of Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2006, according to a statement on the Harvard-backed Global Voices Online Weblog, for which Wu was a part-time editor.

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"Free Wu Hao" logo on Global Voices founder Rebecca MacKinnon's blog. Image: Rconversations

On that afternoon, Wu had met in Beijing with a congregation of a Christian church not recognized by the Chinese government, as part of the filming of his next documentary, Global Voices said.

“The Public Security Bureau has confirmed that [Wu] Hao was in fact detained,” Rebecca MacKinnon, Global Voices founder and research fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society told RFA’s Cantonese service.

“But they have no information about any charges, or how long until his release,” she said.

An official on duty at the Beijing Public Security bureau promised to call back, but no such call was received. “I can’t call out on this phone. If you leave your details, I can call you back with the information,” the official said.

Hao had also been working with Gao Zhisheng, a lawyer specializing in human rights cases.

Police raid Wu's apartment

“He came and did a couple of shoots with me, on the subject of my daily life and my work, before the lunar new year,” Gao told RFA’s Mandarin service.

The Public Security Bureau has confirmed that [Wu] Hao was in fact detained. But they have no information about any charges, or how long until his release.

“The next day [Feb. 22], he had arranged to come again, but that was the day that he went missing. I called some friends in America to let them know,” Gao told RFA reporter Ding Xiao.

Police removed editing equipment and several videotapes from Wu’s apartment on Feb. 24, and Wu later called home but was unable to speak freely.

One of Hao’s friends has been interrogated twice since his detention, Global Voices said in its online statement.

“The reason for Hao’s detention is unknown. One of the possibilities is that the authorities who detained Hao want to use him and his video footage to prosecute members of China’s underground Churches,” it said.

“We are very concerned about his mental and physical well-being.” Wu was Northeast Asia Editor for Global Voices, but his personal blog, Beijing or Bust , was not that of a rights activist and contained little criticism of the Chinese government.

Original reporting in Cantonese by Grace Kei Lai-see and in Mandarin by Ding Xiao. RFA Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. RFA 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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