Posted by: Frederik Balfour on October 24, 2008
The decision by the European Parliament to award the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on Thursday to Hu Jia has clearly rankled those on the top rungs of the Communist Party in China. “We express strong dissatisfaction and stern opposition (to the award),” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a written statement in response to the award on Thursday evening, the official Chinese Xinhua News reported. Hu had been a front-runner for the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to former Finnish president Martti Ahtsaari. A champion of human rights in China, Hu continues to languish in Chinese prison. According to the New York Times , China had lobbied against Hu’s candidacy for the prize, resorting to the familiar refrain that it could seriously damage relations with the EU. That’s the standard mantra the Chinese Foreign Ministry resorts to whenever foreign governments show support for personae non gratae with Beijing. China made similar warnings last year to the U.S. lawmakers decided to award the another Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, the Dalai Lama, with the Congressional Medal of Honor. Twelve months have passed since then, and ties between Washington and Beijing don’t appear to have been materially affected at all.