Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and U.S. singer Joan Baez get Amnesty's top rights award
BEIJING (Reuters) - Amnesty International has given its top 2015 human rights award to both Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, a fierce critic of Beijing who has been banned from leaving China after an 81-day detention in 2011, and U.S. folksinger Joan Baez.
The Ambassador of Conscience Award recognizes "those who have shown exceptional leadership in the fight for human rights, through their life and work", Amnesty said in a statement on Tuesday.
Previous winners include Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, South African former leader Nelson Mandela and Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
"Through his work Ai Weiwei reminds us that the right of every individual to express their self must be protected, not just for the sake of society, but also for art and humanity," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty's Secretary General, in the statement.
Shetty said of Baez: "With her mesmerizing voice and unwavering commitment to peaceful protest and human rights for all, Joan Baez has been a formidable force for good over more than five decades".
The joint award will be presented at a ceremony in Berlin on May 21, the statement said.
But it is almost certain that Ai, 57, will not be able to collect it as he remains under close surveillance and is unable to leave China.
Ai's representative, Darryl Leung, said Ai could not accept interviews as "his situation is still sensitive".
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China has expressed its stance on Ai's case many times. The ministry has previously said he was being investigated by law enforcement authorities. Continued...