Soft Detention Keeps "Free" Chinese Dissidents Imprisoned

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A few high-profile Chinese dissidents, like AIDS activist Hu Jia, have recently been released from prison. But despite an end to their official sentence, many are monitored by police or placed under house arrest. And it's happening outside the law. Ben Hedges reports.

You may think getting out of jail means you're free. But for some Chinese dissidents, even though they have served their sentences, life on the outside may be as restricted as it was behind bars.

[Sarah Cook, Asia Research Analyst, Freedom House]:
"A lot of times this is termed 'soft detention' or 'residential surveillance,' and for the most part, it's not imposed by a judge."

AIDS activist Hu Jia was freed from jail on June 26th. He had served a three-and-a-half year sentence for "inciting subversion." Yet now police are guarding his home and his movement is restricted.

Hu's sentence did include a ban on speaking to the media or attending public rallies for 12 months after his release, yet authorities have taken this a step further and are now imposing full house arrest.

[Sarah Cook, Asia Research Analyst, Freedom House]:
"It's not like there is some procedure that, under Chinese law, under this or that article a person is now subjected to house arrest for a period of X number of months. It's this type of very arbitrary and very indefinite type of detention that can come and go." This house arrest sometimes goes even further—turning into violence.

Blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng became a local hero in Shandong province. He had defended victims of forced abortions carried out under China's one-child policy. Yet Chen was put in jail on what many see as trumped-up charges. Since Chen's release in September 2010, he has been kept under house arrest.

Ben Hedges, NTD News.