Hu Jia's wife fears tighter watch after release

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 June, 2011, 12:00am


Her mood message on Twitter says: 'Zeng Jinyan is looking forward to her family being reunited.'

Zeng's husband, Hu Jia - one of the mainland's most high-profile activists, jailed for 31/2 years on subversion charges - is scheduled to be freed on June 26. But the family reunion she has been so desperately looking forward to is now looking more like a distant dream.

Fearing Hu's release could be the start of tighter surveillance than ever on the family, Zeng moved from Beijing to Shenzhen with her three-year-old daughter in April and enrolled her in a kindergarten. She hoped her husband would eventually be able to join them and start a new life.

But on Tuesday, her hopes were dashed when her landlady terminated her rental agreement, citing government pressure. Zeng was devastated. She and her daughter, who were constantly watched by authorities in Beijing, had just settled into a largely harassment-free life in Shenzhen. They will leave this week.

She now faces a dilemma. She desperately wants their daughter to avoid living under house arrest with them in Beijing, but without a base outside the capital, the only choice is to put her into the care of relatives. This would mean that she and Hu may not see her for years.

Zeng has largely avoided media contact since her husband was jailed but yesterday broke her silence. 'Step by step, I have been forced into a corner - if there is no room for survival, of course I have to resist.'

Whenever she tried to look for a job, employers were pressured not to hire her. When she tried to set up a home-run nursery, the landlord evicted her, she said earlier.

But her worst fears, she said, would be to suffer the fate of friend Chen Guangcheng , a blind activist, who has been confined to his home with his wife and five-year-old daughter and held incommunicado since his September release.

Chen's daughter cannot go to school as she is under house arrest with her parents. His older son, in the care of relatives, hardly spoke to anyone at school because of the stigma attached to his father, she said.

'From Chen Guangcheng's example, I can see our fate in the next couple of years,' she said.

Hu and Zeng's daughter was just one-month old when her father was arrested in December 2007. Zeng said her daughter could already sense that her family situation was different from that of her friends. Zeng said she found it difficult to explain to the three-year-old why her father was a good person but was incarcerated. Hu, initially an Aids activist, later became a campaigner for other activists in trouble.

Once they went to visit Hu and when the child saw him wearing a prison uniform with a number, she asked: 'Papa, are you a policeman?'

'I just didn't know what to say to her.'

Zeng, who appeared more despondent than ever, said she could only wish for a normal life for the family. 'The only thing we want is to look after our child together, go to work and see our friends - then I'd be very happy.'