Chinese HIV/AIDS, Human-Rights Advocate Hu Jia Wins E.U. Award
Chinese HIV/AIDS and human-rights advocate Hu Jia was awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize on Thursday for his work in the fight against the disease, as well as for his efforts to address civil rights and environmental issues, AFP/Yahoo! Asia News reports (AFP/Yahoo! Asia News, 10/23.) Hu currently is serving a prison sentence for allegedly attempting to subvert state power and was one of the 197 nominees for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/6).
According to Reuters, Hu began his work among people living with HIV/AIDS and "emerged as one of China's most vocal advocates of democratic rights, religious freedom and of self-determination for Tibet" (Brunnstrom, Reuters, 10/23). Hu in 2000 began advocating for improved treatment for HIV-positive people in China, as well as children who had lost one or both parents to AIDS-related deaths. According o the Washington Post, he focused on Henan province, where blood selling practices in the 1990s led to the spread of the virus (Eunjung Cha, Washington Post, 10/24).
Lawmakers Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Monica Frassoni said, "Awarding the Sakharov to Hu Jia is a reflection of this very spirit of this prize, which supports free thought and honors human-rights defenders fighting repression" (AFP/Yahoo! Asia News, 10/23). European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering added that Hu is "one of the real defenders of human rights in the People's Republic of China" and that by awarding him the Sakharov Prize, the "European Parliament is sending out a signal of clear support to all those who support human rights in China" (Ames, AP/Google.com, 10/23). Gao Yaojie, a prominent HIV/AIDS advocate in China, said, "We didn't do anything wrong. The only thing we did was to help HIV-positive people. But we were always under great pressure from the government" (Yardley, New York Times, 10/24).
The annual E.U. prize is named after Soviet Union advocate and dissident Andrei Sakharov and was first awarded in 1988. The formal award ceremony -- which includes a monetary prize of $64,280 -- will take place on Dec. 17 in Strasbourg, France (Reuters, 10/23).