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European Parliament Calls for Immediate Release of the Chinese Civil Rights Activist Hu Jia

, by Andrea Petkoviae

Recent reports have shown that the health of the imprisoned Chinese human rights activist Hu Jia, symbol of the resistance to Beijing’s authority and winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2008, has been deteriorating. Hu has been hospitalised in Beijing since 30th March and his family, fearing that he may be suffering from liver cancer, asked for medical parole on his behalf. The authorities however, did not grant medical parole and Hu was sent back to prison. In addition, the authorities refused to provide any evidence of his medical analysis, leaving doubts about the accuracy and independence of the evaluation.

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The Sakharov Network, consisting of Sakharov Prize past winners, called on the President of the European Parliament as well as the countries of the European Union to take energetic action to obtain the release of the imprisoned Chinese human rights activist Hu Jia on health grounds, as Hu has been suffering from complications of liver cirrhosis linked to chronic hepatitis B virus infection and his health condition recently deteriorated.

Hu Jia, who has been considered as the leading symbol of the resistance against China’s human rights problems, started his activism as an AIDS activist in 2001. He is the co-founder of the Beijing Aizhixing Institute of Health Education and of Loving Source, an organisation dedicated to helping children from AIDS affected families. As Hu’s focus broadened and he began reporting on wider human rights violations and giving interviews to foreign media, he was repeatedly harassed, beaten by the police and finally put under house arrest. In November 2007, he participated via webcam in a European Union parliamentary hearing in Brussels in which he stated that China had failed to fulfil its promises to improve human rights before the Olympics games. He was arrested shortly after his testimony and after months under house arrest, Hu Jia was detained on 27th December 2007. He was formally charged on 28th January 2008 and went on trial on 18th March in the Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court. He was jailed by a Beijing court for three and a half years for subversion of state authority.

He was arrested shortly after his testimony and after months under house arrest, Hu Jia was detained on 27th December 2007.

Following the news on Hu’s deteriorating health, the Sakharov Network called the EU countries and the President of the European Parliament to take for more energetic action which would help Hu obtain medical parole for which he has long been eligible in accordance with Chinese law. Also, while in prison, Hu has the right to get adequate medical treatment and accurate medical records in conformity with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires governments to provide adequate medical care during detention. China however, has signed the Covenant but still has not ratified it. Furthermore, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights obliges states to ensure medical care for prisoners at least equivalent to that available to the general population. This Covenant has been both signed and ratified by China.

When one of the Sakharov Prize laureates is in danger of dying, the European Parliament and, through it, all of Europe must use all possible means to save them. Today there is an urgent need to save Hu Jia,” the Sakharov Network stated, and continued to say that “if China wants the Shanghai 2010 Expo, which is supposed to embody universal values, to be a success, then it must show compassion and tolerance towards its dissidents.

In addition, a total of 35 European Parliament members of the Greens, ALDE, EPP and S&D groups called for Hu’s photo to be hung outside the parliament building in Brussels, just like the photo of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese democratic opposition leader and another Sakharov Prize laureate, that has been displayed on the parliament building’s façade.

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Images: Sakharov Prize Poster 2009. Source: European Parliament on Flickr. ©European Parliament/Pietro Naj-Oleari.

Chinese dissident Hu Jia is seriously ill with liver problems. Source: European Parliament. ©BELGA/AFP.

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