Today the European Union awarded the Sakharov Prize, its top prize on human rights, to Chinese dissident and human rights fighter Hu Jia.
In December 2007 Hu testified before the European Parliament, via video conference, regarding human rights violations in China. Shortly thereafter he was declared a criminal and arrested. In April of 2008 he was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, where he is reported to be of failing health, due to a liver disease.
Some sources report that the Chinese ambassador to Brussels delivered a letter to the European Parliament stating that awarding the Sakharov Prize to Hu would “bring serious damage to China-EU relations”. The Chinese government has more recently issued a statement wherein they express “strong dissatisfaction” with the decision to award the Prize to Hu, and strongly denounce what they call “gross interference in China’s domestic affairs”
Hu’s wife Zeng Jinyan and their infant daughter have been closely monitored by Chinese police since Hu’s arrest, but despite this Zeng managed to speak with a journalist from Agence France Presse shortly after the award was announced. She described the intimidation of dissidents in China as “severe”, and went on to say, “To talk about human rights is every individual’s fundamental right. It is not something that you talk about when authorities let you, and that you do not talk about when authorities do not agree.”
The Prize is awarded in Strasbourg, France, on December 17. Kicking Back will watch to see if Hu Jia is permitted to attend. Stay tuned.
Silobreaker has more details than you could possibly want.