BBC has hailed Hu Jia as "the best-known of
(There is also this comment, "I don't believe that a man, who's thirty-something and still asks for money from his parents, can save
Of course, since we who live in the
I just don't understand how the Chinese government can't see the stupidity in their official protests against such prizes. Not only does the argument against "interfering in China's internal affair" hold no logic to those non-governmental organizations, but the effect induced by such protests is to further excite the Western media and spread the news the government did not want their people to know.
A Chinese blogger put it more incisively in a post titled "Our criminal, world's hero": "Sometimes I feel sad for [the government]. On one hand they continuously produce candidates [for international prizes], on the other they are scared into a cold sweats by their own production of such candidates."
It is not that the Chinese government is unable to act smarter. As recently as yesterday, as reported by CNN, Premier Wen Jiabao signed a decree that permanently allows foreign journalists to interview Chinese citizens and travel within
The mixture of stupid and smart decisions from the government seems to me to reveal a wrestling match between the relatively more open-minded leaders and the outdated communist bureaucrats. I surely hope the former will overpower, or at least outlive, the latter as time goes by.
Returning to the topic of Hu Jia, I'm not sure what make of the EU choosing him over other Chinese activists. In the last chapter of Out of Mao's Shadow, Philip Pan describes Hu as "one of the nation's most outspoken human rights advocates", and, "in the debate between the purists and the pragmatists, Hu was one of the purists. Some people thought he was too much of a self-promoter, too willing to confront and provoke the authorities… But if he sometimes behaved recklessly, he also never backed down." Only we don't get an idea what his "pure" and provocative actions have actually achieved.
While mentioning Hu Jia in passing during summarization, Pan devotes several full chapters to a number of other people whose stories are familiar to me, and to many Chinese. Among those, there are the Southern Metropolis Daily journalists, whose tactful but effective true journalism resulted in the government's abolishing the unjust and cruel "shourong" system; there are the two authors who wrote the book An Investigation of China's Peasantry that pushed for the eventually realized relaxation of the peasants' unbearable tax burden; there is the retired army doctor who first exposed the severe reality of Beijing's SARS disaster to the outside world, helping to avoid an even bigger calamity... All of those people also suffered punishment from the government. They were not purists, but they aimed for actual change instead of simply provoking.
I don't know what the criteria are for the "prize for freedom of thought," but why not give it to those people?
One thing that made Hu Jia stand out from the others, it seems, is that he is presently in prison while the others are not (though some of them have been). If this indeed was the main consideration for the European Parliament to issue him the prize, I doubt it is truly effective in promoting "freedom of thought," or even helpful to Hu's own freedom. But perhaps such considerations are beyond the European Parliament, just as sensible tolerance of "pure" activists like Hu Jia is beyond the Chinese government's.