It has been a busy couple of days at AIUSA. First, another issue of the Olympics countdown report came out yesterday. The media staff wrote a press release last Friday and I had little time to do some edits. And then this afternoon, we were anticipating for Hu Jia’s trial verdict to come out tonight so we had another round of press release work. A few hours ago, a staff called to let me know Hu Jia got sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison.

It is a sad day for human rights. All Hu Jia had done was speaking his mind and helped others who couldn’t speak for themselves by letting their experience and thoughts be known around the world. He is probably the first person to use the Internet and technology in China extensively for advocacy work. The tools of the trade for him and his wife Zeng Jinyan are blogs, cellphones, photos, videos, and audio recordings. There are as much materials produced by the couple themselves as there are news articles about them. They have demonstrated that Web 2.0 is great for getting the word out about your cause but at the same time, user generated content can become the road to imprisonment in some countries.

One day before the verdict was released, Zeng published a post on her blog detailing Hu Jia’s off and on detention and house arrest in the last four years. She marked April 3, 2004 as the first day of his informal imprisonment. On the 4th anniversary of the start of his gradual loss of freedom, Hu Jia was finally sentenced to prison. I am not surprised but I am saddened. I don’t think we have seen the worst of it in the run-up to the Olympics. I suspect there will be more arrests and detention. This year’s Olympics will sure go down in history as the most controversial one ever.

Related news and links:

Update (4-3-2008): The AI Urgent Action for the couple has been updated to reflect the prison sentence. Meanwhile, here are more news and reactions about the verdict and the AI report.

Christian Science Monitor

Zeng Jinyan (L), wife of activist Hu Jia, walked next to
Hu’s mother after he was sentenced to prison
Source: The Christian Science Monitor