By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
BEIJING, China – China’s prominent human rights activist, Hu Jia, was awarded the Sakharov prize, the European Union’s highest human rights honor. Hu is known for his campaign for civil rights, the environment and AIDS victims. He was convicted last April of inciting subversion, and is currently serving a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence in China.
Hu’s wife, Zeng Jinyan, also an activist, can visit him only when prison officials allow it. She lives under house arrest with their infant daughter, and reporters are prevented from visiting their home by guards who block the entrance to the apartment building.
European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering called Hu Jia “one of the real defenders of human rights in the People’s Republic of China.” Poettering told the EU assembly that “by awarding the Sakharov Prize to Hu Jia, the European Parliament is sending out a signal of clear support to all those who defend human rights in China.”
The U.S. State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid also said that the U.S. hopes Beijing will move to free Hu Jia from prison, after the European Parliament awarded him a human rights prize. “We hope that the recognition the European Parliament has given Hu Jia by awarding him the prestigious Sakharov Prize will demonstrate to China’s leaders the enormous esteem the international community holds for his important work as a human rights defender and that China will release him immediately,” said Gordon Duguid.
However, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, Liu Jianchao, expressed strong dissatisfaction that such an award had gone to a “jailed criminal” in disregard of China’s repeated representations on the issue. He says it was “a gross interference in China’s domestic affairs.” In a letter sent to the President of EU assembly earlier this week, China’s ambassador to the EU, Song Zhe, said giving the award to Hu would “inevitably hurt the Chinese people once again and bring serious damage to China-EU relations.”
Hu was also named as a possible winner of the Nobel Peace Prize this year, prompting Beijing to issue a warning that the prize should go to the “right person.”
For more information, please see:
ABC – Europe Awards Jailed Chinese Dissident – 23 October 2008
AFP – US presses China to free EU prize-winning dissident – 23 October 2008
AP – EU honours jailed Chinese dissident Hu despite Beijing pressure – 23 October 2008
BBC – Hu Jia wins European rights prize – 23 October 2008
Reuters – China bridles as dissident wins top EU rights prize – 23 October 200