Stanley's blog

The European Parliament has decided to award its prestigious Sakharov Prize to Hu Jia, a Chinese human rights activist held since December 2007 for posting articles online and giving interviews to foreign journalists.

I do not question the breach of human rights by Beijing but do question whether this will help obtain Hu Jia’s release. Yesterday’s post concludes that China and other countries are far less likely to respond positively to public denunciations than to arguments as to why human rights observance is in their interests.

In my view, the award will make it more difficult to obtain Hu Jia’s release.

Song Zhe, Chinese Ambassador to the EU, warned that giving the Sakharov Prize to Hu would have negative consequences for the European Union’s relations with China. “If the European Parliament should award this prize to Hu Jia, that would inevitably hurt the Chinese people once again and bring serious damage to China-EU relations,” the ambassador wrote in a letter to its President, Hans-Gert Pöttering. “Not recognising China’s progress on human rights and insisting on confrontation will only deepen the misunderstanding between the two sides and is not conducive to the promotion of the cause of world human rights.”

We now await the Chinese reaction, bearing in mind the summit tomorrow in Beijing and that Pöttering is from the same party as Angela Merkel. It is regrettable – if understandable – why Beijing cannot accept that Parliament is an EU institution which acts independently of the Member States, the Council and the Commission. ‘Punishing’ the EU should not be the response.

This having been said, it would be very sad indeed if the award of the Sakharov Prize will have a negative aspect China-EU cooperation in facing the international financial and economic crises.

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