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2008 Sakharov Prize Gives China A Black Eye

December 20, 2008

Sakharov Prize Marks 20th Anniversary

An international conference in Strasbourg devoted to the 20th anniversary of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought ended today with the awarding of the prize to Chinese political activist Hu Jia.

aleqm5is-tbonbjpbn-wgttphbol70woow 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.

Previous winners of the Sakharov Prize include former South African President Nelson Mandela and Belarusian opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich.

Sakharov Prize has real impact, say previous winners

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.

Sakharov human rights prize awarded to China’s Hu Jia

The award of the 2008 Sakharov prize for human rights to jailed Chinese dissident Hu Jia hujiatook 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.

EU honors Chinese dissident Hu Jia in absentia

Beijing bars visits to jailed recipient of EU rights award

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 hu_jia_1014376cour 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:

Zeng Jinyan: Courage is not enough

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.

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