Since Hu Jia (胡嘉) is currently being charged for inciting subversion behind closed doors, we figured there is no better time than now to show you Prisoners in Freedom City 《自由城的囚徒》, a documentary made by him and his wife, Zeng Jinyan (曾金燕), while under a seven-month house arrest from August 2006 to March 2007. As ironic as it may sound, Freedom City is the name of the compound that houses the couple’s apartment. This is not your typical arthouse documentary because it was made by Hu and Zeng with their little digital video camera, but what it lacks for in polish it makes up for with its power to send chills down your spine.
Zeng herself is a feisty 24-year old who has been named by Time Magazine as one of 100 People Who Shaped Our World in 2007, described as the “online progeny of the protester who blocked a column of advancing tanks during China’s Tiananmen uprising in 1989”. Zeng remains under house arrest with their 2-month old child and is unable to communicate with anyone outside by phone or by Internet. All attempts by netizens to bring food and baby powder to her have been blocked off by the security police.
The Youtuber who uploaded these 7 videos even left a note with Zeng’s address in Beijing’s Tongzhou District and detailed directions of how to get there, exhorting netizens to make their way there “at your own risk”. With no chance of an open trial, Hu Jia’s case is looking as bleak as Ching Cheong’s. Police have said the case involves “state secrets”, but we will never know exactly what state secrets Hu divulged. And despite attempts by Western media to depict him as a “leading” activist, the truth is the average Chinese will remain blissfully unaware of what Hu ever did. Even to his neighbours, Hu was, more likely than not, a nobody. But to certain powers that be at least, he was, as this article suggests, a “dangerous nobody”.
AFP: Chinese rights activist faces trial for subversion
Rebecca MacKinnon: How to ruin your Olympic image: suppress your critics
Guardian Unlimited: Bad omen from Beijing
Global Opinion: China’s Dangerous Nobodies
Previously on Shanghaiist Sunday Show
Will Chinese cars take over the world next?
Tibet Refugees on 101 East, Al-Jazeera
Chinese Film Odyssey
Children of Blessing
The Unseen China
Brits Get Rich in China
Know of any other feature documentaries that you’d like to share with readers on the Shanghaiist Sunday Show? Email us at info AT shanghaiist DOT com!