Budapest – October 23, 2008 – Freedom House applauds the European Parliament for awarding its top human rights prize to Chinese dissident Hu Jia, who was jailed this year as China cracked down on human rights campaigners ahead of the Olympics. The international community should respond by increasing pressure on China's authoritarian leaders to ensure that Hu is freed—along with all other prisoners of conscience—and allowed to accept the Sakharov Award in France December 17.
"Hu winning the Sakharov Award communicates a powerful message of hope to millions of Chinese who dream of living in a country where they can speak, worship and associate freely," said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director. "The legitimacy accorded to the Chinese government by democratic heads of state who chose to attend the Olympic Games sent the wrong message to China’s beleaguered activists. We hope this award provides the encouragement that Chinese activists like Hu need to keep pressing for their basic human rights."
China's government sentenced Hu to three and a half years in jail this spring on subversion charges after he gave interviews to media and published an open letter to the Chinese government calling for an end to human rights abuses in the country.
Today, the European Parliament also approved funding for a new global initiative to help human rights bloggers like Hu circumvent China's formidable Internet blocking system. The €11 million ($14 million) budgetary proposal will fund a study to develop anti-censorship tools and services.
Freedom House praises the EU for supporting these useful tools and urges parliamentarians to expand this effort by earmarking funds to develop a service to archive web content. This would allow users, especially those in China, to access content deleted by government authorities. The European Parliament should also pass the Global Online Freedom Act which would be a historic step toward strengthening Internet freedom worldwide.
"Freedom House believes GOFA is an essential step toward combating Internet censorship in authoritarian states like China," said Vladimir Shkolnikov, Freedom House Europe director.
China is ranked Not Free in the 2008 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and in the 2008 version ofFreedom of the Press.
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Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in China since 1972.