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China Must Free Dissident Hu Jia, Amnesty Says After EU Prize

By James Peng, Bloomberg
October 24, 2008

Oct. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Chinese authorities must free jailed dissident Hu Jia immediately and stop harassing his family, Amnesty International said today, after he was awarded the European Parliament's top human rights prize.

The civil rights campaigner was jailed in April for 3 1/2 years for "inciting subversion," after testifying to European lawmakers in November 2007 about rights violations in China.

"The award highlights the work of all activists in China who stand up against human rights abuses," Amnesty said in a statement, and called Hu a "prisoner of conscience."

Hu is one of China's best-known environmental and human rights activists and helped found an organization dedicated to helping children affected by HIV and AIDS, according to Amnesty. Together with his wife, Zeng Jinyan, he regularly briefed overseas journalists and human rights organizations about abuses taking place in China, according to the e-mailed statement.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing yesterday that Hu is a "criminal convicted of inciting subversion of state power."

The Chinese government is "opposed to the use of human rights to interfere in affairs of other countries," the spokesman added.

Hu's wife, with whom he has an 11-month-old daughter, is under police surveillance and for the duration of the Olympic Games was moved out of Beijing, Amnesty said.

Liver Disease

Hu's family is concerned that he isn't getting adequate treatment in prison for liver disease, the London-based organization said, adding authorities rejected an application for his release on medical grounds.

The European Parliament praised Hu for embracing environmental causes, speaking up for HIV/AIDS patients and demanding an inquiry into the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre of pro-democracy protesters.

The award "firmly and resolutely acknowledges the daily struggle for freedom of all Chinese human rights defenders," Hans-Gert Poettering, the parliament's president, told lawmakers in Strasbourg, France, yesterday.

Parliament leaders spurned a plea by the Chinese government to hand the prize to someone else.

Hu was picked over Alexander Kozulin, a Belarus opposition figure who was freed in August after two years in prison, and Apollinaire Malu Malu, coordinator of a peace plan in the Democratic Republic of Congo's restive eastern region.

The EU prize was first awarded in 1988 to South African leader Nelson Mandela. It was unclear who will accept the prize and 50,000-euro ($64,000) award on Hu's behalf at a Dec. 17 ceremony in Strasbourg.

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