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20 years of the Sakharov Prize: 2008 Laureate Hu Jia remains imprisoned in China.

Strasbourg, 17 December 2008

20 years of the Sakharov Prize: 2008 Laureate Hu Jia remains imprisoned in China. Laima Andrikienė MEP

On Wednesday 17 December the official award ceremony and the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Sakharov Prize took place during the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The 2008 Sakharov Prize Laureate, Chinese human rights activist Hu Jia could not personally take part in the ceremony as he remains in jail in China.

"On behalf of the EPP-ED Group and as a Member of the European Parliament, I would like to express my deep concern that our Laureate Hu Jia could not be here today with us and receive the award in person as he remains imprisoned for defending human rights in China - freedom of speech, freedom of thought and the basic right of access to the health service", said Laima Andrikienė, EPP-ED Spokeswoman on Human Rights.

"We salute all Sakharov Prize Laureates - Father of the Chinese Democratic Movement Wei Jingsheng, the Leader of the Belarussian Democratic Opposition, Aliaksandr Milinkevich, the Belarussian Association of Journalists and their leader Zhana Litvina, Salih Mahmoud Mohamed Osman from Sudan and others who are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Sakharov Prize with us and Madam Elena Bonner, the widow of Andrei Sakharov", said Laima Andrikiene.

"Unfortunately Mr Hu Jia is not the only Sakharov Prize Laureate who has been prevented from coming to Strasbourg against his or her will. Aung San Suu Kyi, Oswaldo Payá and the Damas de Blanco were also prevented from attending the ceremony of the Sakharov Prize award against their wish. Last week, we commemorated the 60th anniversary of the UN Universal Human Rights Declaration however, human rights in many countries still remain disrespected and unguaranteed", stated Laima Andrikienė.

Former Laureates Aung San Suu Kyi (1990) remains under house arrest in Burma/Myanmar, while Oswaldo Payá (2002) and Damas de Blanco (2005) were blocked in Havana by the Cuban authorities. The Damas de Blanco have not yet receive the prize that the European Parliament awarded them three years ago.

Hu Jia, who spoke on the situation of AIDS patients and environmental protection, was nominated for the Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament despite warnings from Beijing that his selection would harm relations with the European Union. Last year, Hu Jia testified via video link during the hearing of the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Human Rights on China's human rights situation before the Olympics, and later he was jailed and sentenced to three and a half years in prison for "inciting subversion of state power".

The Sakharov Prize was founded in 1988 by the Human Rights Sub-Committee in the European Parliament and named after the Russian dissident Andrei Sakharov. Every year, the prize is awarded to people from around the world who have devoted their lives to defending human rights and common values of democracy worldwide, including religious freedom and tolerance, freedom of speech and media, reconciliation and freedom of thought.

For further information:
Živile Didžgalvienė , EPP-ED Press Service, Tel: +32-475-751627

Note to Editors:

- MEP Laima Andrikienė is a Human Rights Coordinator in the EPP-ED Group

- The EPP-ED Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 288 Members from all 27 Member States.