Happy Birthday to Two

Until this year I’ve never had any particular reason to note July 25th in my diary. Now I have two birthdays marked in, although sadly there’s not a lot to celebrate.

The first birthday is that of Hu Jia – the subject of this year’s Festival Campaign. Hu Jia was a natural choice to highlight during August in Edinburgh. We at Amnesty explain our link to the Edinburgh Festival by saying that we are both focused on freedom of expression, the practice of it and the defence of it.

Hu Jia’s case highlights why freedom of expression is so important – as the enabling point that allows the achievement of so many other rights.

Hu Jia is a campaigner. He does what you and I do – discusses the issues of the day and puts forward ways in which things could be made better. Unfortunately for him he lives in a country where speaking out and independence of mind are not encouraged. So he’s been sent to jail for three and a half years. And now his health is deteriorating and he’s not getting access to his family.

Amnesty will be profiling Hu Jia’s case throughout the Edinburgh Festival. If you come to any of our events then please make sure to pick up an action card (there’s one in every copy of our "At the Festival" programme. If you don’t come to any of our events then you can do something for him right here, right now.

By a strange coincidence the other birthday is that of last year’s featured Festival case – Shi Tao. Again Shi Tao’s "crime" was to have opinions and to express them. Shi Tao received a ten-year sentence because he passed on word of the authorities’ restrictions on reporting the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Someone somewhere is a little muddled on what the real crime was in this story.

A Festival without the chance to laugh at authority, explore difficult themes or simply challenge current norms would lose much of its vitality. It would also lose its ability to change the way we think. And our whole society would be much the poorer for it.

Throughout August Amnesty’s Scottish office will be producing a daily Festival blog here.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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