Back in April the Chinese government sent Hu Jia to prison on charges of subversion. Then in mid-October the European Union awarded Hu the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the highest human rights prize the EU has.
For my trusty holds-water-about-as-well-as-a-sieve maxim that states "good people get prizes and bad people go to prison" Hu has offered up an awfully quizzical conundrum.
First, the charges of subversion against Hu are worthy of a little exploration. Hu is a blogger. Like so many in our age of lightning fast communication, Hu used the Internet to tell others how he was feeling, what he was thinking and what just didn't sit right with him. The simple freedom of giving an opinion and sharing one's ideas does have a tendency to put one in a rather chipper mood.
But the Chinese government, as we all know, doesn't like the wrong ideas. It likes ideas, sure, but in finite terms. It likes its own ideas. And if you disagree with the ideas of the Chinese government, that's fine, it's not like it knows what you're thinking. Just make sure you don't tell people what you disagree with because, damn it, that's dissent. That's being subversive. That's downright evil! If the Chinese government catch someone doing too much disagreeing on the Internet, they're liable to throw them in prison for three and a half years and label them a cyber dissident. Like they did with Hu.
The arrest was based on articles that Hu had written and posted on the Internet site Boxun.com, which happens to be banned in China. The U.S. and the EU both called for the release of Hu, but he remains behind bars.
It says a lot for one nation, or in this case one conglomerate of nations, to give the prisoner of another nation, a prisoner who was jailed and labeled a dissident because of things he wrote about said nation, an award for Freedom of Thought.
China went right ahead and told the EU they were "dissatisfied" with their decision. They went on to say that giving the award to the imprisoned Hu "violates universally recognized rules in the world, which is [that] countries should treat each other as equals and respect each other."
The statement is utter hypocrisy. China has shown that it has no intentions of respecting its own citizens or treating them as equals. Favour is clearly shown to those who conform to government dogma while others, the dissidents, are locked up and their opinions silenced. Furthermore, China shows a lack of respect for the choices made by autonomous nations, decrying their decisions as disrespectful. No doubt, this same lack of respect was seen by China in Hu's Internet articles.
Perhaps I've been a tad reductionist in my arguments, but I won't apologize for it. I'll go further and reduce it to this: when it comes to civil liberties, people ought to have them. The EU may have allowed some of their political agenda to piggyback in through their selection of Hu as winner of the prize, however, while such cross-contamination of politics into actions is hardly avoidable, it should be encouraged if it can in any way act as a catalyst for the improvement of human rights for any group, of any number of people, on any part of our globe.