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China Steps Up Peace Prize Rhetoric

October 09, 2008

Among the rumored front-runners for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize is Hu Jia, the jailed AIDS activist and advocate for civil rights and the environment, who was sentenced to a 3.5 year prison term earlier this year on subversion charges. According to one longtime Nobel Prize observer, this year the prize is likely to go to a human rights advocate because 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

China watchers have also been looking for signs of how officials would respond if Hu wins. Will they ignore it? Condemn him some more?

Earlier this week, the official position seemed pretty muted. At a press conference on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the price should go to the “right people,” Reuters reported.

“I think when Mr. Nobel set up the prize it was to promote world peace and human progress,” Qin said, according to the report. “However some of the prizes went against Mr. Nobel’s original purpose. We hope the prize should be awarded to the right people.”

Today, with only one day to go before the winner is announced, Qin had much harsher words for Hu and the Nobel Prize committee.

“Everyone knows what kind of person Hu Jia is, he is a criminal that was convicted and sentenced to prison by the state judiciary of inciting the subversion of state power,” Qin said at today’s news conference, according to AFP. “If they award the peace prize to such a person, it would be rude interference in China’s internal affairs as well as our independent judiciary.”

Meanwhile, the tipping of Hu as a potential winner has raised awareness of his plight in China. If he wins, he would be the first Chinese citizen to win a Nobel prize. To show subtle support for the jailed Hu Jia, Chinese netizens have been circulating and posting an Adidas Olympics ad that features a Chinese diver with the same name. The ad reads, “Together with Hu Jia in 2008.”

–Sky Canaves

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