2008 Sakharov Prize Gives China A Black Eye
Hu is jailed in Beijing and his wife, Zeng Jinyan, gave a video address from Beijing — where she is under house arrest — in accepting the award.
One idea discussed at the conference was the creation of a Sakharov Prize Laureates’ Club, which would allow past winners to exchange ideas and experiences.
Celebrating 20 years of the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, 16 previous laureates gathered in Strasbourg to share their views on global human rights, and the importance of the Sakharov Prize.
The award of the 2008 Sakharov prize for human rights to jailed Chinese dissident Hu Jia took place at midday Wednesday. In his absence his wife gave an emotional and moving video message from under house arrest in Beijing to MEPs today. Zeng Jinyan spoke about her husband’s poor health and his continued fight for human rights. A symbolic empty chair was in the middle of the Chamber for Hu Jia.
CHINA HAS criticised the European Parliament for awarding its prestigious Sakharov human rights prize to jailed dissident Hu Jia.
Hu’s wife Zeng Jinyan said yesterday she had been informed by Chinese authorities that he would not be allowed family visits this month. This, she said, was punishment for being honoured by the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.
When Hu was announced as this year’s winner in October, Beijing decried the move as “a gross interference in China’s domestic affairs”. Relations between the EU and China have since deteriorated further.
“Such a wrong act will not change China’s resolution to go its own way. We have explained our position many times, and I believe that the European Parliament is very clear about China’s stance,” Liu added.
China had warned that giving the Sakharov prize to Hu could damage Sino-European ties.
Past recipients of the prize have been the following:
- 1988: Nelson Mandela (South Africa) and Anatoly Marchenko (Soviet Union; posthumously)
- 1989: Alexander Dubček (Czechoslovakia)
- 1990: Aung San Suu Kyi (Myanmar)
- 1991: Adem Demaçi (SFR Yugoslavia)
- 1992: Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Argentina)
- 1993: Oslobođenje (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
- 1994: Taslima Nasrin (Bangladesh)
- 1995: Leyla Zana (Turkey)
- 1996: Wei Jingsheng (China)
- 1997: Salima Ghezali (Algeria)
- 1998: Ibrahim Rugova (FR Yugoslavia)
- 1999: Xanana Gusmão (East Timor)
- 2000: ¡Basta Ya! (Spain)
- 2001: Nurit Peled-Elhanan (Israel), Izzat Ghazzawi (Palestine), Zacarias Kamwenho (Angola)
- 2002: Oswaldo Payá (Cuba)
- 2003: United Nations
- 2004: Belarusian Association of Journalists
- 2005: Ladies in White (Cuba), Reporters Without Borders and Hauwa Ibrahim (Nigeria; ex-aequo)
- 2006: Alaksandar Milinkievič (Belarus)
- 2007: Salih Mahmoud Osman (Sudan)
- 2008: Hu Jia (China)
In a moving message to the European Parliament who awarded her husband, Hu Jia, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, Zeng Jinyan also paid tribute to other activists who try to improve freedom of expression in China. “If the truth be told, sometimes one’s courage is not enough. Sometimes the price to be paid is very, very high.”
To deny a person’s freedom of thought is to deny what can be considered one’s most basic freedom; to think for one’s self.
While freedom of thought is said to be one of the fundamental principles of most democracies, the attempted suppression of freedom of thought is a prominent characteristic of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes.
This prize is a brave statement that illustrates the conflict between ideals and reality. Those selected are chosen for their relentles struggle against supressed living conditions. Most of the chosen live at odds with their governments and in harmony with their peers. Whether the nominees are really brave or just crazy, they stand for something most of us want. Freedom to think for ourselves. Freedom to be unique. Freedom to breathe thoughts to our children without censoring their meaning.
Control of humanity belongs to law agreed upon for the good of civilization, not to profit individual leaders. Leaders not chosen by their people must enforce their will through terror and supression. When leaders become too intrusive, individuals can protest. This can be dangerous. The Iraqi journalist who expressed his distaste for a leader by throwing his shoes was indeed a brave soul. Without knowing what his ultimate preferences are, his expression was meaningful. Hu Jia risks it all to be a brave heart for the restricted lives that live in China.