Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Charter 08 (零八宪章)

Today is December 10th, and for all it's worth, exactly sixty years ago the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed. In China, that event was celebrated by a group of influential intellectuals who published "Charter 08", a pamphlet in remembrance of the 1977 pamphlet by Havel and his friends in Prague. Among the people who signed the document is Liu Xiaobo, one of China's leading critics and 'intellectual enfant terribile'. Liu was arrested yesterday, and for now is still in prison. "Charter 08" calls for thorough reforms and democratization. Perry Link translated it for the New York Review. Read it, and the floor is opened for debate! If anyone manages to find the chinese version, please let me know.
First questions I would like to pose:
So the document is published today, and Perry Link translated it today? He must have received a copy beforehand. Which leads to my next question: Who will read this document IN China? I am 99% sure that the People's Daily will kindly decline the offer.
Furthermore, "Change is no longer optional"? This kind of talk will not please Zhongnanhai...
Pay special attention to the repeated mentioning of "basic and universal values". Do they mean "western values"? Or are democracy and republicanism universal?

Time for debate!

Thomas de Groot
December 10th 2008

Update: the Chinese document is here. With a list of all the people who signed...
Update 2: The document was deliberately published online. But so far I haven't seen any reaction on the BBS-forums. Will the portals apply auto-censorship?
Update 3: The first real reply by a "left wing" intellectual was just released by Wang Xizhe on his blog. ESWN has the translation. Earlier this week, the debate on China's future was started by Yu Keping, one of the closest advisors to Hu Jintao, by an interview he gave to several newspapers. It seems it is going to be an interesting winter. Read More..