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Amnesty calls on Scottish birthday support for imprisoned Chinese man ahead of Edinburgh Festival

Chinese activist’s case to be highlighted at ‘Stand Up For Freedom’ comedy nights

Amnesty International is asking people in Scotland to send a birthday message of support for an imprisoned man in China who will be the focus of its campaigning at this year's Edinburgh Festival.

Hu Jia, who will be 35 tomorrow (Friday 25 July), is a Chinese human rights activist jailed for three and half years in April after being convicted of “inciting subversion”. Hu’s offence had been to speak out about Chinese government failures over AIDS prevention.

Amnesty is extremely concerned at recent reports that Hu is suffering from a serious liver disease and may not be getting proper medical treatment. Relatives who have managed to visit him in a jail near Beijing also report that guards have appointed four other prisoners to monitor him and that he is undergoing forced “reform”, including being made to sing “reform songs”.

Amnesty is highlighting Hu Jia’s case as part of its freedom of speech campaigning at the Edinburgh Festival and will distribute over 30,000 action cards on Hu Jia’s case during the Festival. Filled in cards will be delivered to the Chinese Consulate in Edinburgh by Amnesty.

This year the Edinburgh Festival, launching just days after Hu’s birthday, also coincides with the Olympic Games in Beijing (beginning 8 August).

Amnesty International Scotland Director John Watson said:

We're asking people to send a message for Hu Jia at

“The Edinburgh Festival is all about freedom of expression and as people gear up for Edinburgh it would be fantastic if they could send a message of support to Hu Jia.

“No-one should be imprisoned just for peacefully expressing their views and with the Olympics fast approaching it’s vital that we make our voices heard and get the Chinese authorities to release Hu Jia.”

Amnesty, the biggest “good cause” at the Edinburgh Festival, will be highlighting Hu Jia’s case throughout the Festival. This year will be the organisation’s largest and widest-ranging Edinburgh programme to date, with events at the Fringe Festival, the Book Festival, the Festival of Politics, and the Festival of Spirituality and Peace.

Amnesty’s line-up includes two star-studded “Stand Up For Freedom” comedy gigs (in association with The Co-operative Bank) at The Assembly Hall, two visual exhibitions, a play on Burma (with an exclusive Festival demonstration for human rights), an Amnesty lecture, two debates, readings from imprisoned writers and an Amnesty award for a distinguished theatre production.

John Watson added:

“Amnesty is absolutely delighted to be back at the Festival with its biggest-ever line-up of comedy, art, theatre, readings, public demo and stimulating discussion and debate.

“Amnesty and the Festival go together perfectly - we both champion freedom of expression and we both work with some of the world's most inspiring and talented people.

“This year the Festival coincides with the Beijing Olympic Games and we want Festival-goers to support our campaign for human rights in China.”

Amnesty is calling for the Chinese authorities to honour their promises to improve human rights in the country ahead of the Olympics. Instead of reform the country has recently seen a worsening of human rights abuses, with Hu Jia being just one of many people imprisoned or otherwise persecuted so far this year.

Next week, on 29 July (just 10 days ahead of the launch of the Beijing Games), Amnesty will publish a major new report on the latest human rights situation in the country. The organisation will also launch a hard-hitting short animated film called “False Start” - an engaging and extremely powerful illustration of one aspect of China’s dire human rights record.

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