Good News on Human Rights
Deaglán de Bréadún
I note that the Chinese human rights campaigner, Hu Jia, has been released although still seemingly under restrictions. Three years ago, the present writer was covering a trip to China by then-Taoiseach, Brian Cowen. Our governments have not been exactly to the fore in campaigning for human rights in China but even Ireland could not ignore the Hu Jia case. In order to get the following piece done, I had to pass up a rare opportunity to visit the Great Wall. But … no regrets!
Efforts to free China dissident should continue, Cowen says
DEAGLÁN de BRÉADÚN
Mon, Oct 27, 2008
THE GOVERNMENT, along with its EU partners, should continue to seek the release of Chinese human rights dissident Hu Jia, Taoiseach Brian Cowen told The Irish Times at the weekend, prior to his departure from Beijing at the end of the Asia-Europe Meeting – an international summit of 45 countries and organisations.
The European Parliament announced last week it was awarding the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Mr Hu, who was jailed by a Beijing court for three and a half years on April 3rd last on charges of subversion, following a one-day trial.
The prize is named in honour of the Soviet dissident and Nobel Peace Prizewinner, Andrei Sakharov (1921-89), and awarded annually to individuals or organisations deemed to have made an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy.
This year’s prize, consisting of a certificate and a cheque for €50,000, will be awarded in Strasbourg on December 17th and efforts are underway to secure permission for Mr Hu to attend.
The Taoiseach said that, when he met Chinese premier Wen Jiabao for bilateral talks at the Great Hall of the People last Thursday, he “stressed the importance Ireland attaches to human rights”.
“Our meeting was not an appropriate occasion or opportunity to raise any specific cases,” he added.
“I note that the European Parliament has decided to award the Sakharov Prize to Hu Jia. The case of Hu Jia is one which the Irish authorities have already raised with the Chinese authorities in recent months.”
“Hu Jia is a very brave and courageous human rights defender and we welcome the Taoiseach’s commitment to continue to press for his release,” stated Mary Lawlor, executive director of Frontline, the Dublin-based international foundation which supports human rights defenders.
Beijing reacted strongly to the award. Foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao called it gross interference in internal affairs. “We express strong dissatisfaction and stern opposition,” another foreign ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, said.
Hu Jia (35) has campaigned on a wide range of subjects, including environmental concerns, HIV/ Aids issues, and the need for an enquiry into the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
Arrested on December 27th, 2007 on a charge of “inciting subversion of state authority”, Hu was tried on March 18th before a Beijing intermediate court for posting information about matters of state on websites based abroad.
Hong Kong newspaper the South China Morning Post quoted Zeng Jinyan, wife of Hu Jia, as saying she hoped the Sakharov award would help her husband secure an earlier release from jail.
© 2008 The Irish Times