BEIJING (AFP) — China expressed its anger and disappointment at the European Union decision on Thursday to give a major human rights award to Chinese dissident Hu Jia, insisting he was a criminal.
The European Parliament awarded the Sakharov Prize to Hu, who is serving a three-and-a-half year jail term on charges of subversion, saying it was "a clear signal of support to all those who defend human rights in China."
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao described the EU move as "gross interference in China's domestic affairs".
"We express strong dissatisfaction at the decision by the European Parliament to issue such an award to a jailed criminal in China, in disregard of our repeated representations," Liu told reporters.
"I don't believe that anyone gets anywhere by interfering in the affairs of others."
Hu, 35, was sentenced in April after a one-day trial.
China's ambassador to Europe, Song Zhe, had threatened that awarding Hu the prize would "bring serious damage to China-EU relations," according to a letter from him released by the European Parliament.
But Liu told reporters the award would not have an impact on the two-day Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM), which gathers leaders from 43 nations and will open in Beijing on Friday.
"I don't think this will affect the meeting," he said.
A campaigner for human rights and AIDS victims in China, Hu was a key source of information for foreign media on human rights and environmental violations, government abuses, judicial injustices and mistreatment of dissidents.
He was taken into custody last December, not long after he spoke via video conference to the European Parliament, criticising human rights violations in China.
Hu had been seen as a possible winner of the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded two weeks ago, but it went instead given to Finnish peace mediator Martti Ahtisaari.