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.
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:
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.
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。
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 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.
“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.”
“Who made you to do so?”
“When did you find the Charter?”
“On the internet.”
“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,
“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:
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.