Tuesday, April 13th, 2010...7:25 pm

Hu Jia Case, What’s at Stake

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Professor Jerome Cohen calls Hu Jia situation a “golden opportunity” for Beijing to begin improving its criminal justice system. On the government’s (bad) move to deny Hu Jia medical parole, Professor Cohen writes:

If Hu is forced to remain in prison, without expert medical treatment and adequate diet and care, until his sentence is completed on June 26, 2011, his incurable liver cirrhosis may leave him permanently disabled, with limited capacity for even blogging. Could this be the Party’s game plan?

We all know what’s at stake here. Not just Hu Jia, and the other human rights lawyers, but also the effect on U.S.-China relations. With the conclusion of the nuclear summit, U.S. and China are coming closer regarding sanctions on Iran. On the other hand, pressures are mounting on China’s currency. To make progress on this issue, the Obama administration so far has avoided a head-on hard approach, and the President just announced that he has “no timetable” for RMB appreciation.

As much as the currency pressure is on China, it is also on Obama, for not taking a hard approach – it’s coming from all directions, pundits, business interests, political oppositions, you see it in the news (I mean on the Internet) everyday.

It will make Obama’s policy extremely difficult if the Hu Jia case escalade to a major human rights crisis in China – that is, if, and I pray not, Hu Jia dies in prison due to inadequate treatment. Washington’s “soft” and engaging way towards China (and what I think is very constructive, case in point, the sanction on Iran, or even China’s late joining of Copenhagen Accord) will be severely attacked. And this, I fear, may actually lead to a downward turn of U.S.-China relations.

So what is Beijing’s strategy now?

It has just rejected Zeng Jinyan’s application for medical parole, so it’s unlikely to reverse the decision any time soon; but in realizing that they cannot afford to let Hu Jia die in prison, their best option now is to monitor his health condition closely, call expert doctor in to make special (secret) visits to the patient. Without doubt, secret negotiations are underway between China and U.S. now regarding Hu Jia. Beijing knows that at a certain point, doctor’s visits to the prison won’t be enough for Hu Jia’s treatment, and it has to at least transfer Hu Jia to a real hospital with adequate medical facilities. Since such transfer is not likely to be kept in secret, they’d better to do so by granting Hu medical parole. But they also know that once granted parole, there’s a good chance that Hu Jia would seek medical treatment overseas, e.g. in the U.S.. When that happens, (now calls in mind a series of Chinese dissidents’ names, Yang Jianli being one of them), the Chinese government customarily would let him stay outside of the country forever. Let’s see how long it takes for Beijing to get there.

My best wishes go to Hu Jia, Zeng Jinyan and their lovely daughter.

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