The director of the International Peace Research Institute of Oslo said imprisoned human rights activist Hu Jia may be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year. Other candidates on the prediction list include Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Do and Russian human rights lawyer Lidia Yusupova. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was asked about this latest news at their regular press conference (transcript in Chinese and English) today. The spokesperson responded that the prize should be given to the right person who truly works for world peace. They hoped the officials who administer the prize would not violate its original intention and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.

Rumor aside, something more definite on the horizon is the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought given out by the European Parliament. Hu Jia has been officially included in the short list of 3 candidates for the prize. The official announcement will come out in mid-October, shortly after the Nobel Peace Prize is announced on October 10th.

Meanwhile, life in prison is not any better for Hu Jia. Zeng Jinyan posted on Twitter today that she finally got to visit her husband. She found out he has been handcuffed and leg shackled in solitary confinement sometime in August. Four prisoners continue to monitor him daily and report to prison officials. Zeng also mentioned the prison gave the family a stern warning. The prison told the family that external influences affect Hu Jia the most. Zeng expressed she doesn’t know what to do to protect him and she is mentally and physically exhausted.

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Update (9-27-2008): Yesterday, Zeng Jinyan sent a tweet with a link to her recollection of the latest visit with Hu Jia.  It was not posted on her blog for a reason. Here is the unofficial translation:

Today I saw Hu Jia

Yesterday morning, a prison staff called me by phone to inform me to go to Tianjin City’s Hangu Qinghe Work Farm of Chaobai Prison to visit Hu Jia on the 24th.  In light of the long distance, the family of young and old, and the rain, it was too late to prepare for traveling on the same day. I worried that by the time of our return, it would be dark and unsafe to drive, therefore, I discussed with the prison staff if it was possible to visit on the 25th and they agreed.

The state security police said on the phone that the prison and our family can communicate directly from now on about everything related to visiting Hu Jia. In the future, I only need to inform the state security about the next visit, they would no longer be the middle man of communication and would not accompany on the visits. Yesterday, we picked up Hu Jia’s mother. Today, we left home at 8:20, arrived at 10:40, then we waited for the prison to arrange the visit. We listened to the prison staff’s opinion of Hu Jia and communicated on some questions. We started our return trip at 2:20pm and we arrived home at 5pm. The round trip was a total of 338km, the highway fee cost a total of 160 yuan (the trip out cost 75 yuan and the return cost 85 yuan). We took the new highway to Tianjin and the distance was shorter than the old highway so the time it took was less, except it was very tiring for one person to drive the round trip.

The prison staff explained that the regular schedule of prisoners’ visit is between the 10th and the 23rd of each month. The prison is very busy on those days. The visits with Hu Jia are special visits. From now on, the visits will be arranged between the 23rd and the 10th of the next month.  Family members will be notified in advance.

Hu Jia asked how I am doing. I said there were some improvements compared to some time ago. He suggested I invite friends to have some fun at home. I said I cannot do it nowadays. He said to say hello to friends. He mentioned something midway but the prison guard interrupted and prevented the discussion.

Based on the conversations with prison staff and Hu Jia, I found out due to Hu Jia spreading human rights discussion among the prisoners that is unfavorable to prison management, he was held in solitary confinement on August 13 for one day. He was handcuffed and leg shackled in solitary confinement for 24 hours and then he had to reflect on it for 9 days. Other prisoners are prohibited from lending newspapers and books to Hu Jia to read. Since the beginning of his imprisonment, four prisoners are in charge of his “care” 24 hours a day and report on his movements. Hu Jia said he wouldn’t “mess around” so that these four weakest of the weak would not lose 5 points every month.

The prison said prison staff would definitely not beat prisoners and they would only use restraining tools such as batons under certain conditions. The prison staff also said a certain human rights organization (I don’t remember the exact name) wrote a letter to the head of the prison and asked some questions about Hu Jia. The prison forwarded the letter to Hu Jia today and told him to reply to the letter himself. At the same time, the prison staff told me that because my letter to Hu Jia contained “unfavorable” information, they gave the letter back to me. They hope that when the family writes about social situation, the content should be more in favor of reform so Hu Jia can soon return to society and live a normal life. Hu Jia told me because his letters to the family always have content that do not comply with the requirements of letter review, he has to correct the letters following the prison requirements and copy the letters over. It takes a long time, sometimes up to 8 hours to finish a letter to the family.

The prison said they considered Hu Jia’s health conditions and they arranged for him to do the lightest work. A while ago, the work he participated in included tending to young plants and trees and mopping the workshop floor, and now it’s digging.  Hu Jia said although it was very tiring, he really enjoys this kind of work. In terms of food and health, the prison said they would give Hu Jia a physical exam every six months. Hu Jia said the prison has special vegetarian meals but the eggs are cooked with green onions so he cannot eat it and he eats instant noodles in this situation (Buddhism considers green onions, ginger and garlic as meat so strict vegetarians do not eat green onions). I saw that his gums are pale and I worry he is anemic and not getting enough nutrition.  I told him to request for the purchase of multivitamins to maintain basic health.

The prison staff said they were going to allow Hu Jia to hold the baby at this visit.  I feel very regretful that I didn’t know about this ahead of time (I requested it at past visits but got denied), the baby is now very active, the trip was far, and I could not drive and take care of her at the same time, therefore, I didn’t bring the baby to this visit and lost the opportunity for Hu Jia to hold the baby.

The prison staff said they read my blog. They don’t want anyone to affect prison management, otherwise it would affect Hu Jia greatly.

September 25, 2008 at BOBO Freedom City