Interview With AIDS Activist Hu Jia

June 1, 2004: Chinese AIDS and democracy activist Hu Jia. Photo: AFP

Beijing-based AIDS activist Hu Jia, who suffers from hepatitis B, was seized by officers from the internal security department of the city's police force on Feb. 16. He was driven with a hood over his head to a rural resort, held without his medication, and questioned for 41 days after taking part in a rolling hunger strike to protest police brutality in China. He told RFA reporter Lin Di about his ordeal:

I was kidnapped by police at around 9 a.m. on Feb. 16. I was told yesterday that they would be able to release me, and in the morning they dropped me off about an hour’s walk from my house. They didn’t bring me home, but made me walk the rest of the way.

On the morning of Feb. 16 I was heading out to a meeting of non-governmental AIDS organizations, and the State Security Bureau of the Tongzhou county police department had already checked with their superiors and said I could go. At the time I was under house arrest.

But they said I had to go in to the meeting in a police car. I wasn’t in the slightest bit suspicious, and I got into the police vehicle. But then I realized that the four officers in the police vehicle weren’t the same as the ones from before.

They were heavies; I’d never seen them before. They drove me out to a remote area where there weren’t any people and one of the guys in front turned around and said to the others , "Get him sorted out for me." And they immediately grabbed me and got me into that position they use for restraining criminals, called the jetliner position…

Black hood over the head

They put a black hood over my head, removing my glasses first, so I couldn’t see anything. Sometimes they forced my head right down to the floor as the car was driving along…

I asked them several times during my detention if they would go back home and get my medication for me but they refused.

They were making sure that I had no idea where they were taking me. I started to vomit at one point because I was extremely car-sick. I’m not normally car-sick, but because one minute the car was accelerating, the next minute they were slamming on the brakes, and me with my head pressed down against the floor...

I went for a total health check today. The doctor ran a series of tests and said things were not looking good. He says I have early cirrhosis of the liver. He said the next stage is late cirrhosis and then cancer. They asked me if I drank a lot of alcohol, but I told them that I am a Buddhist and that I never drink…I told them about some of my run-ins with police and they said this could be a reason for it, that my liver had been damaged in this way…

When I left home I had no medication with me, and no daily necessities, and no change of clothes…I was on hunger strike for 30 days during my detention...I asked them several times during my detention if they would go back home and get my medication for me but they refused.

When my mother and wife were going to the police station to look for me, they ran into police officers who had been watching me. But they absolutely refused to admit they were holding me.

The place was called the the No. 5 Production Brigade of Taihu township, Tongzhou county, Beijing. It used to be countryside but now it’s been turned into one of those holiday villages. I was locked up in the inner room of one of their suites. It was very cold. At any given time there’d be seven or eight police officers watching me. They did it in shifts.

Cut off from outside world

I had no idea of all the reports that were circulating about me. I had no way of knowing. They had all been told not to bring any news from the outside world in with them. They were also very careful about their mobile phones. They were very careful to keep them far away from me for fear I would manage any sort of communication at all with the outside world.

After they had kidnapped me and taken me to that place, I asked them why they were doing it, but they wouldn’t tell me…That evening, three people came to visit from the Beijing municipal headquarters of the State Security Bureau. They were very young. They started asking me about the hunger strike, because when Gao Zhisheng had put out his statement about the hunger strike, he had included my name.

I answered all their questions either by saying I couldn’t answer or by suggesting they go and look it up on the Internet. They got nothing new out of me, and then they left. After that, I think they realized that they weren’t going to change my attitude or achieve any sort of cooperation or communication with me.

Yesterday lunchtime another four people came from the Beijing municipal headquarters and took all the notes I had made about who had come to see me, my diary, everything on my person. They did a very intimate search.

Then they put the black hood over my eyes again and took me out to the suburbs of Beijing and left me to walk home, after warning me that more misfortune would come upon me if I continued to take part in those activities – any activities relating to human rights – I would be detained again and my family would be left to worry about me. They’ve never done that before. Usually they take me right to my neighborhood and the police see me right to the door of my apartment.

I think they did that because they didn’t want any proof at all of this whole affair. They were afraid that if they took me home, someone would see them. They’ve already got to the point where they’re invisible…They were from the Internal State Security Brigade of the Beijing Public Security Bureau. This department is run like a criminal gang. Everything they do goes against human rights, and they know it, and they don’t care.

Police department for dissidents

Other types of police…have to actually do some work on behalf of ordinary people. Some of them even work pretty hard at it. But the state security police are in charge of dissidents. Office number 610 [set up to track down members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement] is part of this department.

Basically if the Party wants to get you, then this department will use illegal means to deal with you…the officers who were on surveillance detail were from the Tongzhou branch of this department.

I’ve never had this before in all the times that I’ve been detained. I had no idea the amount of concern that was shown by my family, my wife, my mother, my friends, and also media while I was being held. But I cannot let this go. According to Chinese law, even if someone has committed a crime, even if they’ve committed murder, they still have to inform their family within 12 hours of their detention. But I was held for 41 days.

Those police knew very well where I was; they’d been with me, but they still kept their mouths shut when my wife went enquiring after me at the police station. They also told her a pack of lies. It is unbelievable that such things were done by law enforcement officers.

I plan to seek out each one of those police officers and ask them to account to me for what they did. First, I will write an account of what happened and send it to the Beijing National People’s Congress deputy, and go through that channel to the Beijing municipal police department…

I am going to sue the Beijing Public Security Bureau, because they have become more and more reckless in violating human rights, which not only has brought misfortune to my family, but also to many other families. In order to put restraint on them, to awaken them, and to make them repent, I must use the law as my weapon…

To tell the truth, however, it’s enormously difficult to gather proof. My records of my detention have all been taken away.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Lin Di and in Cantonese by Lei Kin-kwan. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. RFA Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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