China: “08 Charter” Signers Arrested and Questioned by Police

08 Charter, a collective statement drafted by non-official scholars, signed by hundreds of supporters, including famous writers, lawyers, professors and many other dissidents, sketches a blueprint for the democracy prospect in China.

It calls upon Chinese government for more positive response to people’s demand for human rights and political reform. It concerns issues such thw separation of power, better social security system, religious freedom, and election of public positions. Different from many past appeals, it doesn't stop simply at the call for anti-corruption action, but more into a deeper level of a constitutional change. In format, it emulates the anti-Soviet Charter 77 declaration of the Czechoslovak.

Catherine Sampson, writer on Guardian UK, commented the Charter as “one of the boldest calls for change to have emerged since the bloodshed of 1989 all but silenced dissent in China.”

The timing of its release is quite sensitive. 10, Dec is the World Human Rights Day, also the 60th anniversary of the United Nation’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a key human-right pact China as one of its signers. Moreover, 2008 is an uncommon year for China. Except for the glorious Olympics, the year is more gloomy than inspiring that the earthquake and snowstorm wreak havoc; the financial crisis impacts the daily life of Chinese, and along the year, riots, violence and protests frequents the country. The prosperity and stability brought by continual GDP growth and iron-handed ruling is undermined by the uneven distribution of wealth and justice.

Most of the problems point to the controversial political system of China, on which the 08 Charter criticizes in its prelude:


In particular, the intensification of hostility between government officials and the ordinary people, and the dramatic rise of mass incidents, illustrate a catastrophic loss of control in the making that the anachronism of the current system has reached a point where change must occur.(translated on Human Right in China)

And now the charter, itself, is likely to push the conflict to the culmination.

A high-handed response

Its birth and release to public is more than dramatic.

The Charter was planned to be publicized on exactly 10, Dec, the Human Right Day. 303 signatures have been collected, marking the first phase of the campaign. As soon as it is released, a public signature-collection movement will be launched.

However, on 8, Dec, Liu Xiaobo, one of the most prominent dissident in China, also an initiator of the campaign, was raided and arrested by secret police, along with another scholar, Zhang Zuhua, who was released soon. But their houses were ransacked, computers and other personal items taken away.

Interviewed by Deutsche Welle, Zhang recalled:

大约有20多名警员身着警服闯到我家中,出示了传唤通知书和搜查证,然后把我带到万寿路派出所进行讯问,长达12小时。同时留下11位民警在我家进行了一 个大搜查。把我家里的几台电脑,包括我妻子的电脑,还有我的很多书籍和私人物品–我和我太太的现金、存折、银行卡全部抄走,留下了很厚一沓的扣押物品文 件清单。

About 20 police in uniform rushed into my home, showing search warranty and summon notice, and taking me to the Wan-shou police station for questioning for 12 hours. The 11 police in my house searched through and took all the computers there, also some of my books, cashes, bank books, and bank cards away, leaving a thick pile of inventory.

Not as lucky as Zhang, Liu Xiaobo has been detained for all the week till now. No sign yet shows that he will be released in short time. Liu was born in 1955. After the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989, he had been imprisoned as a major planner. After being released, he kept writing on to lash out at the anti-democracy deed of the authority, in and out of prison frequently.

On Telegraph UK, a detailed account of what happened is presented. As the article marked, one of the most politically sensitive demands in the Charter is for the western-style separation of powers – the legislature, the executive and the legal system – which has been publicly discussed but ruled out by Communist Party leaders. But more than that, item 18 in the Charter, which proposes China to shift into a federal republic, is what the authority cites the most to charge against the signers, because it is thought be a clear threat to the state regime.

Though signers have claimed they only want a reform within the current political framework, the authority is well unsettled. More questionings, home arrests and confiscations are going. Rumor says every single signer will be “treated” by police.

Independent Chinese Pen Center
, an association advocating the freedom of writing and publishing, which Liu-xiao used to preside over, is greatly affected because many of its members have signed the charter. They documented what happened to them in these days on the internet.

Dang Guangsheng, a poet, posted that he got a taste of how efficient the secret police are:

去附近的“步瑞祺电脑城”,正在柜台看耳机时,有人拍了拍我的肩膀。我一看,是个陌生的30多岁的穿着休闲服的人。他问“ 老管吗?”我说“是”。他说“借一步说话。”我有些诧异,又有些想笑,心想:这人还比较文明。我问道“你认识我吗?”他说“你不是管党生吗?”我说“是 ”,他扶着我胳膊说“没有找错”。然后把我带到门口,说“我是市公安局的,想找你了解些事情,请配合一下”,并掏出来“人民警察证”给我看了一下,里面名 字还没有看清楚,他就收了起来。说实话,我当时的第一个念头就是想跑。但是,一方面他强“扶”着我胳膊,一方面感觉跑也没有什么意思,何况以前也有过类似 的事情。

I was there in the computer store looking for a set of earphones. Some patted on my shoulder. I turned around and found a 30-year-old man in sportswear. He asked, “Mr. Guan?” “Yes,” I replied. “May we go out for a talk?” asked he. I got surprised, while feeling funny meanwhile, thinking, “he is a well-mannered guy.”…. he carried my shoulder, saying “you are who I want”, and then took me to the gate.
“I am from the city Public Security department”, he said, “I just want to make sure of something, please work with me.”…..honestly, the first idea came to me is to escape. But first, he clutched my shoulder, and second, I don't think running would be of any help. Moreover, this is not unfamiliar to me.

The author was then taken outside the door, and invited to a guest box in a restaurant. A talk, apparently friendly but actually tit-for-tat and strained, followed.


“Let’s make it open. You are active recently.”
“In what way?”
“Make a lot of signatures.”
I remained silent.
“Have you seen the 08 Charter? And the Letter to People on Rescuing Liu Xiaobo?”
“Yes, I have.”
“Signed them?”
“Who made you to do so?”
“When did you find the Charter?”
“On the internet.”
“Which website?”
“Everywhere. “
“Do you know it is a big problem?”
“How did you get connected with Liu Xiaobo?”
“I didn’t. I don’t know him a lot.”
“So why support him?”

The author gave a long reply this time,


Since 1980s I have been fond of his essays. Also, I think Charter 08 is just advocating some basic principles and pursuit of certain values of democracy. It will facilitate the progress of the Chinese legal system. The charter speaks for the political ideal of many of us. To arrest people for its sake makes no sense. The constitution guarantees our freedom of speech.

“How do you know that Liu was detained for the 08 Charter?”

“Then for what?”

He was silent this time.

Finally, after making sure that the author knew little about who are running the movement and how it was done, the detective let him go. The author commented at the end of the blog entry:


Coming out, I have been thinking how efficient the Chinese police could be. If such efficiency could be used for anti-corruption, what a wonderful world will it be.
Maybe it is a needless worry, but in fear that I suddenly “disappear”, I write down what happened to me today.
It is sunny outside. And it goes as the old saying tells: I believe the cloud can never block out sunlight.


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  • wangjian

    Change or collapse,the choice is in the hand of chinese authorities.Quite a lot of them are vested-interests,the love money instead of democracy.In case of collapse quite a lot of them already have sent their families to abroad,leave average chinese people to take the possible results!

  • abc

    from 中文独立媒体「文摘」 by 文摘编辑部
    12 月29日下午,我接到单位领导的电话,谈零八宪章的事。他首先问我是在什么时候,以什么方式在零八宪章上签名的,然后问我为什么要在上面签名,我回答说,我看了宪章的内容,觉得不错,符合现行宪法精神,与中国已经签署的联合国宣言、公约一致,我签名是在履行得到宪法保障的权利。他说,零八宪章违反了现行宪法和法律,我直截了当地呵斥:”胡说八道!我可以在任何时候,和任何人辩论这个问题。”我问他看过这个宪章没有,他说没有,我说,那你应该先看看再作自己的判断,不要跟着上面瞎说。他要求,不能在宪章上签名,如果已经签了,要声明退出,我说绝无可能退出。






    在中国,历来有一种违宪地剥夺公民言论自由的借口,”欲加之罪、何患无辞”的手法,如果在言论、文本中挑不出毛病,就说背后另有图谋和用心,毛泽东”反右” 时”天下大乱、取而代之”的说法就是典型例证,但这在法理上是站不住脚的,因为这种主观臆想或蓄意诬陷缺乏法律上有效的证据。













  • Howard

    08宪章, 不会是像戈尔巴乔夫那样的”改革新思维”吧? 当时巴式的新思维确实还挺有市场的,经济上提出不少新点子,政治上,多党制,民主选举,司法独立,媒体自由,一切都看起来很美。

    可是每每回想历史, 一个大国在”改革新思维”中短短数年就解体, 却让人扼腕。东欧各国在新思维的感召下以各种方式演变,过上了所谓的自由生活,演变成欧盟下的政治经济新附庸,俄罗斯老派官僚和新生精英权贵们的争权夺利甚至用上了大炮, “全民选举”名义下叶利钦上台,以休克疗法的快速私有化, 快速培养出一批暴富官僚和资本大鳄,使俄罗斯人民生活地更加屈辱。乌克兰、格鲁吉亚等伙伴纷纷抱上了美国和北约的大粗腿,甚至蒙古也让亲美派掌了权。俄罗斯穷得连库尔思克核潜艇也救不上来,航母或出租或卖废铁换钱,芭蕾演员沦落到东欧或远东跑场子打工。。。这时的西方媒体一方面感叹俄罗斯的没落,一方面额手称庆和平结束冷战,不战而屈俄罗斯之兵。


    – 08宪章会不会让达喇实现“大藏区”的“真正自治”?如何对付“疆独”?
    – 08宪章下如何对待台独势力?中国大陆能实现和台湾的和解实现和平统一吗?
    – 08宪章会不会加快中国经济转型,从而实现可持续的发展,有效应对金融危机和出口困境?
    – 08宪章会如何进行农村、农业和农民的改革,使低收入人群得到实惠,实现长期脱贫?
    – 08宪章下中国如何举办奥运会?还会举办吗?
    – 08宪章下多党政治下的中国会不会加入WTO?很多重大决策会不会因而长期议而不决?
    – 08宪章下各级地方与中央的关系和利益如何协调?
    – 08宪章下如何消除和避免行政腐败?如何避免“反腐”变成党派权力之争的工具?
    – 08宪章下是不是FLG又会复活了?甚至变成一个“某某党”?
    – 08宪章下军队听谁指挥?怎么发展现代国防来保障国家利益和国土安全?
    – 08宪章下如何解决中印、中俄、南海、东海、克什米尔、越南的领土、领海纠份?

  • Howard

    Listen to another voice about lessons of democracy from The Philippines

    From Manila Standard Today
    Monday, November 17, 2008

    SUBJECT: No cheers for democracy, as outlook for Philippines worsens

    By Juan T. Gatbonton, Editorial Consultant

    Filipinos are increasingly pessimistic about our country’s prospects. And the reason is that they see no easy way of resolving the basic flaw in our national condition— which lies in the way people with political influence are able to extract wealth without effort from the economy.

    Even the most patient and most hopeful among us now seem to regard the imposition of an authoritarian regime as a workable alternative to our anarchic democracy. Meanwhile, more and more families are voting with their feet: Migrating “for the sake of the children.”

    Shoddy showcase

    Our shoddy “showcase of democracy in Asia” does have a measure of constitutionalism; a free and easy press; what passes for a political opposition; and periodic elections. But the system is unable to generate coherent public policies; corruption is brazen and mass poverty continues to perpetuate itself.

    Of course, the Philippines is not alone in its disillusion with representative processes. In Thailand, the big-city middle class, too, is frustrated by its inability to prevail against the rural masses, who keep returning the party of the populist Thaksin Shinawatra to a majority in parliament. But at least the Thais have in their revered monarch a moral arbiter of last resort.

    Washington SyCip, who’s a kind of Makati elder statesman, calls ours a “premature democracy.” We have the minimum political entitlements without also having the economic entitlements that enable us to exercise those political rights with responsibility.

    Below a certain individual income level, SyCip argues, constitutionalism and multiparty electoral competition do not work. People sell their votes: the rich dominate the state, extracting from it rents and privileges that enable them to make more money to buy even more votes the next time around.

    At the local level, the law is what the political boss says it is. And while the tolerance for state abuse is higher in the poor countries, it is not limitless. Eventually something’s got to give—and our country’s close to the breaking point.

    Our neighbors did it differently

    The difficulty arises from the way we’re trying to develop contrary to the East Asian model, which puts economic development first and political development later.

    States that liberalize their economies before they open up their political systems—by insulating their technocracies from political interference—have a better chance at building durable and resilient democracies. As the open economy develops, it begins to impose its own restraints on the political system—raising the political costs of arbitrariness and the abuse of power.

    The concept of private property and free markets together creates a private realm—civil society—outside the state’s domain. And it is this initial act of separation between the public and private realms that initiates the evolution of limited government.

    Nostalgia for the strongman

    We had two chances at setting these “economy-first-politics-later” priorities during this last generation—first under the strongman Ferdinand Marcos (1972 to 1986) and then under the EDSA revolutionary, Corazon Aquino (1986 to 1992). But both times the weakness of the Philippine state prevented it from carrying out its own dirigiste policies.

    Marcos modelled his economic policies after those of the Korean strongman, Park Chung Hee (1961 to 1979). But the austere Park’s disciplined state did not allow its own enrichment to derail its development effort. He demanded from the Korean conglomerates export growth equal to the privileges he granted them. The Marcos technocracy became little more than a fig leaf for crony capitalism.

    Mrs. Aquino ruled by decree for over a year. She might well have carried out a radical land reform program (as she had promised during the “snap-election” campaign), which is best undertaken in one rapid and comprehensive package that denies reactionary interests time to mobilize opposition. But she waited for the new Congress to do so. Dominated predictably by landlord interests, the post-EDSA legislature passed a land reform law riddled with loopholes that remains uncompleted even after 20 years.

    No alternative to slow reform

    Our longing for a benevolent authoritarian has a basic flaw. How are we to find—and install—this selfless individual who would kick-start our country toward prosperity and social justice?

    All our neighbors who turned to “soft” authoritarianism were spurred by outside threats. Taiwan and South Korea were engaged in civil wars. Thailand faced a Communist Indochina; Malaysia ethnic and Indonesia ideological conflicts. Singapore was a Chinese island in a sea of potentially hostile Malays.

    Our relative isolation—and the American umbrella—spared us similar fears (and reasons for unifying). Our political elite had abandoned nationalism early on to the radical Left—so that it recognizes no public motive save self-interest. Consider how quickly strongman rule degenerated into profligacy.

    The weakness of the Philippine state itself limits our authoritarian option. Park Chung Hee, paragon of authoritarian development, himself warns that, in the absence of a strong state, we will find it difficult to carry out even nationalistic goals.

    My own feeling is that because of the downright incoherence of the Philippine State, we Filipinos have no alternative to developing little by little over time. Building state capacity must become our first priority. And already there are civic groups organizing a “People Power” movement to elect a good president, instead of bringing down a bad one. Their model is the Pampanga “electoral miracle” of 2007, when an aroused Kapampangan middle class nominated a parish priest for governor against two dynastic politicians.

  • […] by blogger gokenin168: as its title suggests, this is a post about Charter 08 drafted by Chinese intellectuals last December: […]

  • […] oleh blogger gokenin168: sebagaimana dinyatakan oleh judulnya, ini adalah sebuah pos tentang Piagam 08 yang disusun oleh kaum cendekiawan Tionghoa bulan Desember lalu: […]

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