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Jailed Chinese dissident and Tibet supporter wins top European human rights award on eve of Asia-Europe summit

October 26, 2008

ICT Press Release
October 23, 2008

Despite pressure from Beijing, European Parliamentarians have awarded
imprisoned Chinese dissident Hu Jia the most important human rights
award in the European Union, the Sakharov Prize. Hu Jia, who has
spoken out in support of Tibet, was given the prize "on behalf of all
silenced voices in China and Tibet", according to European
Parliamentarians. The decision has angered China, which hosts the
Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) tomorrow in Beijing.

Vincent Metten, EU Policy Director of the International Campaign for
Tibet in Brussels said: "We commend European Parliamentarians for
awarding the Sakharov Prize to Hu Jia, who has spoken out
courageously against repression in Tibet and in support of the
Tibetan people as well as working tirelessly to chronicle human
rights abuses in China. On the eve of the Asia-Europe summit,
European leaders are sending a strong message to China that
repression of peaceful dissent is unacceptable and human rights must
be respected."

Hans-Gert Poettering, President of the European Parliament. said: "Hu
Jia is one of the real defenders of human rights in the People's
Republic of China." Beijing's ambassador to the EU, Song Zhe, warned
last week that China's relations with the 27-nation bloc would be
seriously harmed if Hu Jia won the Sakharov Prize. A spokesman for
China's Foreign Ministry, Liu Jianchao, expressed strong
dissatisfaction today that the award had gone to a "jailed criminal",
but added that the issue was "too trivial" to mar the proceedings of ASEM.

Hu Jia was sentenced to three and a half years in jail this spring on
subversion charges during a crackdown on human rights activists ahead
of the Olympics. He had begun his activism in the late 1990s,
campaigning for recognition and treatment for HIV/AIDS sufferers, and
was also involved in environmental campaigns to protect the
endangered Tibetan antelope (chiru). He then took up a much broader
range of human rights issues and publicized human rights abuses
online and through his writing. Hu Jia is a Tibetan Buddhist
practitioner, and his daughter was given a Tibetan name by the Dalai
Lama at Hu's request after his wife, Zeng Jinyan, met the Dalai Lama
in India where they discussed human rights in China and Buddhism.

European Parliamentarians said in a statement that Hu Jia "represents
all the other Chinese citizens who are repressed: lawyers,
journalists, petitioners, human rights activists, writers and
cyber-dissidents". Several Tibetan political prisoners - Dolma Kyab,
Jigme Gyatso, Jigme Tenzin Nyima, Runggye Adak, Tashi Gyatso, and
Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche - are named on the list of prisoners included
in Hu Jia's candidature for the Sakharov Prize. A committee of EU
lawmakers drew up the shortlist for the Euro 50,000 (US$64,000)
award, which is named in honor of the Soviet dissident Andrei
Sakharov who died in 1989.

In a letter written on September 10, 2007 while he was under house
arrest, Hu Jia and civil rights lawyer Teng Biao referred to the
shooting of 17-year old Tibetan nun Kelsang Namtso on the Nangpa Pass
by Chinese border guards in 2006, and the tightening of control over
Tibetan Buddhism. "One year later, China tightened its control over
the Tibetan Buddhism. A September 1, 2007 regulation requires all
reincarnated lamas to be approved by Chinese authorities, a
requirement that flagrantly interferes with the tradition of
reincarnation of living Buddhas as practiced in Tibet for thousands
of years. In addition, Chinese authorities still ban the Dalai Lama,
the spiritual leader of Tibet and a world-renowned pacifist, from
returning to Tibet." (The full text of the letter in English is
published by Human Rights Watch,

Hu Jia gained support in coping with his own lack of freedom, and
sometimes, despair, from his Buddhist faith and the example of the
Dalai Lama. He wrote in one article: "For 20 days, I've not been able
to take a single step outside my door. Sullen and seething with
anger, on occasion I have the urge to perish as one with the state
machinery. But I am a Buddhist, and I must let go. My soul is free,
and I think of the future. To not be free is the greatest
humiliation; to not be free is to have one's dignity trampled. With
hundreds of days such as these, I cannot help but recall that stately
man and the people who he led and how they have passed a half century
and more of displacement. What can I do for you?

"Exile or imprisonment have always been the price of taking freedom
away. His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his people have paid with
several decades of exile, and I want to use peaceful means to level
the deep, deep gully created by totalitarianism. Your Holiness,
venerated Dalai Lama, if a young Han pays with the months and years
of his life and even his whole life, would that it could be exchanged
for the freedom for Your Holiness and the exiled Tibetans to return
home, or that could I be the first torch to light your way home
through mainland China, I would willingly give everything." ('The
Dalai Lama's return' by Hu Jia, August 9, 2006).

Beijing had earlier expressed concern about Hu Jia's nomination for
the Nobel Peace Prize this month, with the Foreign Ministry saying
that it hoped the committee would choose "the right person". The
comments, made prior to the award, were taken as a warning that a
Nobel win for either Hu Jia or dissident lawyer Gao Zhisheng, both
contenders for the Prize, would severely strain relations between
China and the West. Beijing still expresses disquiet that the Dalai
Lama won the Peace Prize in 1989. The 2008 Nobel Peace Prize was
awarded to Finnish peace negotiator Martti Ahtisaari earlier this month.

This press release can be found online at

Press contact:
Kate Saunders
Communications Director, ICT
Tel: +44 7947 138612
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
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