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Comment Icon0 As one of China’s best-known and closely monitored civil rights activists, Hu Jia was ironically tipped to be awarded the 2008 Nobel peace prize, to highlight China’s poor human rights record in the wake of the Olympic Games (Fouché, 2008). Having campaigned on democracy, the environment and the rights of HIV/Aids patients, Hu was sentenced by the Chinese courts to serve three-and-a-half years in jail for “inciting to subvert state power”. As one of the government’s most prominent critics, Hu has also won a European Union human rights prize despite a warning from Beijing that selecting the political prisoner would damage relations with the EU. As a testimony to the harassment both Hu Jia and his wife received, they shared a dramatic video diary of their ordeal of being under round-the-clock surveillance by the Chinese state security police (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Living Under House Arrest in Beijing: A video diary by Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan (Guardian News, 2008).

Comment Icon0 The intensity of intrusive surveillance experienced by Hu Jia and his wife is commonplace for most dissidents, particularly those blacklisted by the Chinese authorities. These forms of government enforcement generally peak during sensitive political anniversaries or visits by sympathetic foreign dignitaries (U.S. Department of State, 2001). As of late 1998, the PRC authorities had reportedly placed 150 dissidents on an intensive watch list. At least half of these dissidents had affiliations with the banned CDP, and were described as “dangerous” according to internal directives. Surveillance was allegedly heightened by the dissidents’ ability to form an effective national network, which was particularly alarming to the authorities (Lam, 1998). Based on an earlier report on China’s secret blacklist of exiled dissidents, the dissidents are typically placed under three categories (Beck, 1995):

Comment Icon0 Category 1: To be arrested on entry into China

Comment Icon0 Category 2: To be refused re-entry into China

Comment Icon0 Category 3: To be dealt with “according to circumstances of the situation”.

Comment Icon0 The Chinese authorities typically learn of new dissident-related activity through informants. Once a dissident has been identified as a person of particular interest, the authorities would then monitor their electronic communications, including use of the Internet (Chase & Mulvenon, 2002).

Chapter 5.2.5 – Norms: Surveillance and Informants


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