Dissent by Association

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Greg Girard/Contact Press Images for TIME.

Her husband's arrest turned Hu Jiangxia into a dissident.

Hu Jiangxia never aspired to be an activist. Studious and soft-spoken, she preferred math textbooks to politics. While her contemporaries marched on Tiananmen Square in 1989, Hu remained at home in central China cramming for college entrance exams. The work paid off. She earned a spot at Shanghai's prestigious Jiaotong University and later a job as a software programmer at one of China's most successful companies in the eastern lakefront city of Hangzhou. It was there that Wang Youcai, a lanky fellow programmer, first asked her for a date. She turned him down. He'd spent four years in prison for helping...