China has lashed out at the European Parliament for awarding a prestigious human rights prize to jailed Chinese dissident Hu Jia.

China says Thursday's decision to award Hu the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was interference in its internal affairs.  China's Foreign Ministry referred to the activist as a "jailed criminal."

Hu's wife welcomed news of the award and said she believes her husband would be happy because his work was being validated.

Hu was arrested last December, and later sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for allegedly subverting state power.  

Authorities detained him after he testified about China's human rights record via phone to the European Parliament's human rights subcommittee.

The European parliament's president, Hans-Gert Poettering, says it believes that giving the award to Hu would send a signal of clear support to those working for human rights in China.

Hu Jia has campaigned for civil rights, environmental protection and AIDS advocacy in China.  

The Sakharov Prize is named after the late Soviet physicist and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.  

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.