China bridles as dissident wins top EU rights prize

Thu Oct 23, 2008 9:50am EDT
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By David Brunnstrom

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Parliament, in a move that immediately drew a tart rebuke from Beijing, awarded its top human rights prize Thursday to a Chinese dissident who was jailed for subversion after testifying to the assembly last year.

Announcing the award of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering called Hu Jia "one of the real defenders of human rights in the People's Republic of China."

"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," Poettering told the EU assembly.

A spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, Liu Jianchao, expressed strong dissatisfaction that such an award had gone to a "jailed criminal" even though China had made numerous representations on the issue.

Liu called the award a meddling in China's domestic affairs and a violation of international norms, but he also said it would not overshadow an Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) of 43 nations in Beijing that starts Friday.

"Relative to so many pressing international affairs, it's too trivial to dwell on," Liu said at a briefing on the two-day ASEM summit.

Starting with advocacy for rural AIDS sufferers, Hu emerged as one of China's most vocal advocates of democratic rights, religious freedom and of self-determination for Tibet, which was shaken by protests and a security crackdown earlier this year.

He was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison in China in April. Hu, 35, had already spent many months under house arrest with his wife and child.   Continued...

<p>Chinese activist Hu Jia displays photos of Chinese AIDS sufferers from China's Henan province in Beijing in this March 9, 2003 file picture. The European Parliament, in a move certain to rile Beijing, on October 23, 2008 awarded its top human rights prize to Chinese dissident Hu Jia, who was jailed for subversion after testifying to the EU assembly last year. REUTERS/John Ruwitch/Files</p>