EU Awards Jailed Chinese Dissident  བོད་སྐད།

The European Parliament has given its top human rights award to a Chinese dissident currently serving a three-and-a-half year prison sentence.

The parliament formally presented the 2008 Sakharov Prize to Hu Jia in absentia, citing his work to promote democratic reforms in China. Hu was named winner of the prize in October.

Lawmakers placed a symbolic empty chair in the parliament's chambers and gave Hu a standing ovation.

Hu's wife, who currently is under house arrest in Beijing, addressed lawmakers in Strasbourg in a video message. Zeng Jinyan said her husband hoped he would be the "last political prisoner" and remains optimistic about China becoming a more open society.

Zeng added she would like to use the 70-thousand-dollar prize money to open a foundation to support families of human rights activists.

The annual award takes its name from Andrei Sakharov, a well-known Soviet-era human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Hu started out as an advocate for HIV/AIDS patients before becoming a vocal critic of China's human rights record.

Chinese officials were angered by the selection of Hu and accused the European Parliament of meddling in their country's internal affairs.