|Hu Jia, an activist for environment and AIDS issues.|
YAN’AN, China — Hu Jia, a prominent Chinese dissident whose activism on behalf of the environment and AIDS sufferers landed him in prison for the last 3 1/2 years, was released in the predawn hours yesterday and returned to his home in Beijing, his wife said in a Twitter posting.
“Sleepless night,’’ posted Hu Jia’s wife, Zeng Jinyan. “Hu Jia arrived home at 2:30 in the morning. Safe, very happy. Needs to rest for a while. Thanks, everyone.’’
Hu was arrested in December 2007 and convicted by a Beijing court in April 2008 of “incitement to subvert state power,’’ a catchall law frequently used to target critics of China’s authoritarian Communist government. Hu, 37, began as an environmental campaigner and took up the cause of victims of HIV and AIDS in China before his activism led him to become increasingly critical of the government.
At the time, human rights groups and others said the authorities wanted to remove an outspoken critic before the start of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, which cast an international spotlight on the Communist government’s human rights record.
Hu is the second high-profile activist to be released in the last four days.
On Wednesday, renown dissident artist Ai Weiwei was allowed to return to his home in Beijing after 80 days held incommunicado, on what the government said were tax evasion charges. Ai’s family and lawyers called the accusations a pretext and said Ai was targeted for his outspoken antigovernment views.
But Hu, like Ai, faces tough restrictions after his release, including being prohibited from speaking to the media and being deprived of his political rights for one year, meaning he cannot vote in local elections which are dominated by the Communist Party.