New York, January 3, 2008—The arrest last week of high-profile activist and blogger Hu Jia in Beijing is raising concerns that the Chinese government may be ratcheting up its efforts to control internal dissent in the months leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Hu Jia, a freelance reporter and blogger, civil rights, environmental and AIDS activist based in Beijing, was arrested at his home in Beijing on December 27th and is now being held incommunicado on charges of “suspicion of inciting subversion of state power.” Hu had continued to speak out and post his vocal critiques of human rights abuses and environmental degradation in China despite being confined to virtual house arrest since May 18, 2007. He recently testified to the European Union via webcam, calling the Olympics a “human rights disaster.”

His arrest came days after Chinese authorities detained several members of the Independent Chinese PEN Center and forced the cancellation of an awards dinner the group was planning in Beijing, and two weeks after Wang Dejia, another well-known human rights defender and cyber-dissident was jailed after criticizing the pre-Olympics human rights climate in China.

“When PEN American Center launched its ‘We Are Ready for Freedom of Expression’ campaign to mark International Human Rights Day on December 10th, the number of writers PEN believed to be in prison in China in violation of their right to freedom of expression stood at 40,” said Larry Siems, Director of the Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. “In just over two weeks, that number rose to 42, and our PEN colleagues in China have come under intense pressure from the government. We are obviously alarmed. Instead of adhering to the pledges it made in securing the 2008 Olympics to protect freedom of expression, the Chinese government appears to be backtracking and concentrating instead on controlling and silencing dissent.”

In August 2007, one year before the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government launched a major publicity offensive under the slogan “We Are Ready.” PEN’s campaign, an initiative led by the Independent Chinese PEN Center and PEN centers in the US and Canada, counters that public relations effort by reminding the world that China continues to deny its citizens the fundamental right to freedom of expression and suggesting that Chinese authorities now have 217 days until the opening ceremonies to release 42 writers and journalists currently held in Chinese prisons and fulfill its pre-Olympics promises to improve its human rights record.

For more information on PEN’s China campaign, “We Are Ready for Freedom of Expression: Countdown to the Beijing Olympics,” including biographies of the 42 imprisoned writers, visit

UPDATE: Hu Jia was formally charged with “inciting subversion of state power” by the Beijing Municipal People’s Procuratorate on January 30, 2008. This means that under Chinese law, he can legally be held without trial until after the Olympic Games.

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105