The European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought has been awarded this year to Chinese political activist Hu Jia, EP President Hans-Gert Pöttering announced in Strasbourg today. The prize ceremony took place in Strasbourg on 17 December.
The decision of Parliament’s political group leaders to award the prize to Hu Jia was communicated to the plenary by Mr Pöttering, who said: “By awarding the Sakharov Prize to Hu Jia the European Parliament firmly and resolutely acknowledges the daily struggle for freedom of all Chinese human rights defenders.”
Hu Jia is a prominent human rights activist and dissident in the People’s Republic of China. He has embraced a wide range of causes, including environmental issues, HIV/AIDS advocacy and a call for an official enquiry into the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. He has also acted as a coordinator of the ‘barefoot lawyers movement’.
Having already been arrested several times, he spoke to MEPs in November 2007 from house arrest via conference call during a public meeting of the EP Human Rights Subcommittee on human rights in China in the run-up to the Olympic Games. As a result he was charged by the authorities with “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced on 3 April 2008 to three-and-a-half years in jail.
Protests against his arrest have come from all over the world. The European Parliament passed a resolution in January 2008 demanding his release. On 8 August 2008 and 6 September 2008, Hu Jia’s name appeared alongside other signatories on open letters calling for more attention to be paid to human rights in China.
20th anniversary of Sakharov Prize
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, has been awarded by the European Parliament every year since 1988 to individuals or organisations who have made an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy. To mark the 20th anniversary, a special event to which all previous winners of the prize have been invited was held in Strasbourg on Tuesday 16 December.
This year’s prize certificate was awarded in Strasbourg the next day, Wednesday 17 December. In addition to the title, the winner received the sum of €50,000.
Previous winners of the prize
1988 Nelson Mandela and Anatoli Marchenko (posthumously)
1989 Alexander Dubcek
1990 Aung San Suu Kyi
1991 Adem Demaçi
1992 Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo
1994 Taslima Nasreen
1995 Leyla Zana
1996 Wei Jinsheng
1997 Salima Ghezali
1998 Ibrahim Rugova
1999 Xanana Gusmão
2000 ¡Basta Ya!
2001 Izzat Ghazzawi, Nurit Peled-Elhanan and Dom Zacarias Kamwenho
2002 Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas
2003 UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and all the UN staff
2004 Belarusian Association of Journalists
2005 Ladies in White, Hauwa Ibrahim, Reporters without Frontiers
2006 Alexander Milinkevich
2007 Salih Mahmoud Mohamed Osman