After serving a three-and-a-half year sentence for inciting subversion, Chinese activist Hu Jia was sent home on Sunday.
But like Ai Weiwei, who surfaced from detention last week, Hu is far from free.
His wife told the BBC that he is being held under conditions “equivalent to house arrest.”
Media have published plenty of photos today showing crowds of non-uniformed police outside their apartment block in Beijing’s eastern suburbs.
Hours after his release, Hu spoke by phone to Hong Kong media, telling them that he will be careful in the future.
“Once I saw my family, I understood how much I owe them, especially my parents, my wife and my kid,” Hu told iCable News. “I realise I’ve done nothing for them. There is a Chinese saying that ‘patriotism and filial piety don’t go hand in hand’.”
Both Hu and Ai, once strident critics of aspects of the Chinese political system, now appear hobbled and cowed.
And this is just how the government wants them to appear, as a lesson to other would-be critics of the Party.
True to form, the English-language Global Times, a Chinese state mouthpiece, has an opinion piece today on Hu. The paper frequently covers news Chinese domestic media tend to shy away from.
The editorial, headlined: “Questioning West’s campaign to create a hero” is an oddly-worded critique of how the west only champions those were are anti-Chinese government.
It also warns Hu that his time in the limelight will be short-lived.
“The West will forget about China’s “social activists” soon, just as the “democratic activists” of 20 years ago [an oblique reference to the Tiananmen Square activists] have been gradually marginalized in Western society.”