Mar 07 Chinese rights activist Zeng Jinyan disappears

Aug. 09, 2008, 7:52 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) A Chinese human rights activist whose husband was jailed earlier this year has disappeared and may have been taken by police to prevent her from speaking to journalists during the Beijing Olympics, an overseas-based human rights group said Friday.

The group, Chinese Human Rights Defenders, said Zeng Jinyan disappeared on Thursday and has not been heard from. Zeng is married to activist Hu Jia, who was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison in April.

"All attempts to contact her have failed. It is feared that Zeng has been taken into police custody and might be mistreated," the group said.

"As the Olympics open in Beijing, it is believed that Zeng was taken away to ensure that no journalists will have access to her and that she will be unable to speak out about Hu Jia during the games," it said in a statement.

Zeng's cell phone was out of service Saturday. Zeng and their baby daughter have been under strict surveillance by police since Hu was detained Dec. 27. Reporters have been turned back by police guarding their residential complex.

An activist lawyer and friend of the couple, Teng Biao, said he had not heard from Zeng in the past few days, and that the last time he spoke to her about a month ago she told him police had asked her to leave Beijing.

Hu was jailed for "inciting state subversion." Beijing routinely uses the charge of subversion to imprison dissidents for years.

His conviction and sentencing was one of the most prominent signs that China's leadership intended to clamp down hard on dissent ahead of the Olympic Games, which began Friday.

In January 2006, Hu married Zeng, whom he had met while she was doing AIDS volunteer work.

Hu had been involved in various civil liberties issues, including AIDS awareness, environmental rights and Tibet. In recent years - often while under house arrest - he linked activists across China with the rest of the world.

His lawyer, Li Fangping, said at the time of his trial that the evidence against Hu included five Internet articles he wrote and two interviews he gave to foreign media.

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