Sakharov human rights prize awarded to China’s Hu Jia
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.
Jinyan said she had been forbidden by prison guards to discuss the
prize when she last visited her husband on 21 November: "We were both
warned…that we were forbidden to talk about the fact that he had been
awarded the Sakharov Prize."
Hans-Gert Pöttering said Hu Jia "was nominated as the representative of
the silenced voices of China and Tibet, but today we will hear that
Bonner, the widow of Andrei Sakharov, was also in the Chamber for the
award as were former winners of the Sakharov prize which celebrated 20
years this year.
“Repression has failed to silence the voices of courage”
the award ceremony Mr Pöttering said today "is a day when we recall the
fundamental principles of our Union as a force for peace, progress and
human rights. As Dr Andrei Sakharov said "it is impossible to achieve
any one of these goals if one of the other two is ignored."
1988, one of our first prize winners, Nelson Mandela, was in jail. In
1988, there was also an empty chair for Andrei Sakharov; here today,
there is an empty chair for Hu Jia," he added. The "2008 Sakharov Prize
winner Hu Jia was nominated as the representative of the silenced
voices of China and Tibet, but today we will hear that voice" he said.
Zeng Jinyan: the voice of Hu Jia
MEPs then heard a recorded speech by Zeng Jinyan, herself a cyber-dissident and currently under house arrest.
Jinyan made the following comments from her husband, "Perhaps the
European Parliament was thinking of the work I did in the areas of AIDS
and the environment, because what I did in terms of human rights was
very far from sufficient and I will need to redouble my efforts."
said Hu Jia is far from being the only prisoner of conscience in China.
"Sometimes the price to be paid is very, very high." Not only activists
but also their relatives have been "harassed by the police, lost their
jobs or have been put under house arrest. And more serious still, some
have even been tried and convicted," she said.
She also said that Hu Jia had "hoped he would be the last political prisoner".
Prize money to fund support network for persecuted activists and their families
Jia had "often said he would like to set up a support network to help
the families of human rights activists. To provide moral support for
the families, to ease their mental and life pressure to which they are
subjected," she said. Consequently, "I would like to use the €50,000
Sakharov Prize as start-up money, to establish a foundation to support
the families of human rights activists."
Hu Jia’s path: from AIDS and environment to human rights
2004, Hu Jia devoted most of his activities to the problems of AIDS and
the environment," she said. "From 2004, the police regularly denied him
his freedom of movement and he had no other choice but to participate
in human rights movements from his home, writing articles and
all these years, the most important and most interesting thing he did
was to have constantly persisted in speaking the truth. He never
stopped writing about the phenomena he observed. He never stopped
describing, one by one, all the realities that the Chinese media cannot
say," she said.
Optimism for a more democratic China
Jia has always remained optimistic, said his wife. "He said he thought
China was experiencing the most open period of its history…whether
the government wants it or not…China is moving at great speed towards
an open and democratic society," she said. "We are full of hope of soon
being able to hail the arrival of an open China. We are full of energy
for China to become a country at peace."
At the end of the video message former winners and MEPs gave the message a standing ovation.
Human rights not a threat to any nation
Bonner, Andrei Sakharov’s widow and herself a renowned human rights and
democracy campaigner, praised Zeng Jinyan asked the House "if everyone
present had done enough to protect the Hu Jia, his wife and their child
they want to do business with".
Bonner was in trenchant mood. She reaffirmed her husband’s belief that
"people should always follow their consciences". She went on to say
that "human rights the basis of civilisation".
the position of Zeng Jinyan she asked the Chamber "if everyone present
had done enough to protect the Hu Jia, his wife and their child from
state they want to have relations with".
also questioned whether the position of the EP and Parliamentary
Assembly of the Council of Europe on human rights is always based on
Ms Bonner also unveiled a list of 97 titles and awards received by Andrei Sakharov so people could know him better.
Hans-Gert Pöttering had earlier added that "we speak out on human
rights as a friend of the Chinese people and we know how much we can
do together for peace and progress".
The ceremony ended with a one minutes of applause for Hu Jia