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When state security agents burst into his apartment on Dec. 27, Hu Jia was chatting on Skype. Hu's computer was his most potent tool. He disseminated information about human rights cases, peasant protests and other politically touchy topics even though he often lived under de facto house arrest.
Hu, 34, and wife, Zeng Jinyan, are human rights advocates who spent much of 2006 restricted to their apartment in a complex with the unlikely name of Bo Bo Freedom City.
[Zeng] blogged about life under detention, while [Hu] videotaped a documentary titled "Prisoner in Freedom City."
[The protesting] ended on Dec. 27. Hu was dragged away on charges of subverting state power while Zeng was bathing their newborn daughter, Qianci. Telephone and Internet connections to the apartment were severed. Mother and daughter are now under house arrest. Qianci, barely 2 months old, is probably the youngest political prisoner in China.
Activist Hu Jia was on Thursday jailed for three years and six months for subversion, his lawyer said, amid what rights groups charge is a campaign by China to silence dissent before the Olympics.
The United States and the European Union immediately spoke out in defence of Hu, who became the second Chinese dissident in less than two weeks to be jailed after using the Beijing Olympics to highlight human rights problems in China.
Hu, for many years one of China's highest-profile human rights campaigners, was found guilty at a Beijing court of "incitement to subvert state power" following a one-day trial last month, lawyer Li Fangping said.
Li said the subversion charge had related to the 34-year-old Hu posting articles on the Internet about human rights issues and speaking with foreign reporters.
"The evidence was publishing articles on websites outside of China and accepting interviews with the foreign press," Li said outside the court, adding he believed the verdict was unjust and he would advise his client to appeal.
China's official Xinhua news agency carried a small article saying that Hu had confessed to his crime.
"Hu spread malicious rumours and committed libel in an attempt to subvert the state's political power and socialist system," Xinhua said, citing the court verdict.
Hu's wife, Zeng Jinyan, 24, who recently gave birth to their first child and is also a prominent rights activist, said the verdict was the culmination of four years of harassment by authorities.
"He's been put under surveillance, been kidnapped. He's been put under house arrest and now they have sentenced him to three and a half years," Zeng told reporters outside the courthouse as she broke down in tears.
"This is irrational and unfair."
In one article he wrote with fellow activist and lawyer Teng Biao last year that was recently published by Human Rights Watch, Hu called on visitors coming to Beijing for the Olympics not to be fooled by the trappings of development.
"You will see skyscrapers, spacious streets, modern stadiums and enthusiastic people. You will see the truth, but not the whole truth, just as you see only the tip of an iceberg," the pair wrote.
"You may not know that the flowers, smiles, harmony and prosperity are built on a base of grievances, tears, imprisonment, torture and blood."
Hu's verdict followed a jail sentence handed down on March 24 to Yang Chunlin, a former factory worker, on similar subversion charges.
Yang, 52, was detained after he collected more than 10,000 signatures for a petition entitled: "We want human rights, not the Olympics".