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China: Hu Jia Sakharov Prize Spotlights China's Rights Crisis

October 24, 2008

Human Rights Watch (HRW)
October 23, 2008

For Immediate Release
China: Hu Jia Sakharov Prize Spotlights China's Rights Crisis
Release Award Winner and Other Jailed Rights Defenders

Washington, October 23, 2008

The awarding of the European Parliament's 2008 Sakharov Prize for
Freedom of Thought to the jailed Chinese human rights activist Hu Jia
underscores the urgent need for rights reforms in China, Human Rights
Watch said today. Human Rights Watch reiterated its long-standing
call for the release of Hu, who was sentenced last April to three and
half years in prison for "incitement to subvert state power," a
charge regularly leveled against critics and dissidents in China.

The European Parliament has described Hu Jia as a "leading symbol of
China's human rights problems? He represents all the other Chinese
and Tibetan ccitizens who are repressed: lawyers, journalists,
petitioners, human rights activists, writers and
cyber-dissidents."  The award ceremony is to take place in Strasbourg
on December 17.

"Awarding the Sakharov Prize to Hu Jia on the 60th anniversary of the
Universal Declaration on Human Rights sends a powerful message to the
Chinese government," said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director
at Human Rights Watch. "Beijing pledged to improve human rights and
to show the world a 'harmonious society' during the Olympics, but
instead silenced and locked up peaceful rights defenders."

Hu has worked as the executive director of the Beijing Aizhixing
Institute of Health Education, a nonprofit organization aimed at
advocating for the rights of Chinese citizens suffering from
HIV/AIDS. He has also taken up civil rights and environmental concerns.

Human Rights Watch has long argued that Hu's arrest in December 2007
was politically motivated, and that his trial did not meet minimum
standards of fairness and due process
(http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/03/17/china18300.htm). On the
occasion of the six-month anniversary of Hu's flawed conviction,
Human Rights Watch called on the Chinese government to exonerate Hu
or grant him medical parole. He suffers from liver cirrhosis linked
to chronic hepatitis B infection
(http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/10/01/china19897.htm).

Hu's wife, Zeng Jinyan, herself a noted human rights activist,
remains under police surveillance, along with the couple's infant
daughter, Qianci. In an effort to keep her from speaking to the press
during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Zeng Jinyan was detained in a hotel
in Dalian in Liaoning Province from August 8 to 23. She has
documented Hu's detention conditions and declining health since his
arrest on her blog.

In an open letter titled "The Real China and the Olympics"
(http://hrw.org/pub/2008/asia/teng_biao080220.pdf) published in
September 2007, Hu and fellow activist Teng Biao drew attention to
chronic rights abuses in China, including the absence of independent
courts and trade unions, and the widespread use of torture. Human
Rights Watch has documented the deterioration of human rights in
China, including violations of the Chinese government's pledges of
greater media freedom, in the period following the publication of this letter.

"The European Parliament made an important decision this year to
highlight Beijing's policy of jailing, surveilling, and otherwise
silencing human rights advocates, lawyers and journalists," said Richardson.

Human Rights Watch also reiterated its call for the Chinese
government to release Hu and other jailed activists including Gao
Zhisheng, Chen Guangcheng and Huang Qi
(http://china.hrw.org/hu_jia_and_chinas_rights_defenders).

"The Chinese government should see Hu Jia as the European Parliament
clearly does: not as an enemy or embarrassment, but rather as someone
whose courageous advocacy embodies the best of China," said Richardson.

For more of Human Rights Watch's work on Hu Jia and on human rights
in China, please visit:
http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/10/09/china19943.htm

For further information on the Sakharov Prize, please visit:
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/comparl/afet/droi/sakharov/inspiration_en.htm

For more information, please contact:
In Washington, DC, Sophie Richardson (English, Mandarin):
+1-202-612-4341; or +1-917-721-7473 (mobile)
In Paris, Nicholas Bequelin (English, French, Mandarin):
+852-8198-1040 (mobile)
In Hong Kong, Phelim Kine (English, Mandarin): +852-6604-9792 (mobile)
In New York, Minky Worden (English, Cantonese): +1-212-216-1250; or
+1-917-497-0540 (mobile)
In Brussels, Reed Brody (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese):
+32-498-625786 (mobile)
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