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China: Charter 08, to be free and fearless

Categories: East Asia, North America, China, Hong Kong (China), U.S.A., Digital Activism, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Politics, Protest

At the Eve of the sixtieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Dec 10, 303 prominent intellectuals and human rights activists in China, jointly released Charter 08, demanding more political reform in China. However, the China government decided to celebrate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by repressing the peaceful and rational act. A number of intellectuals, some human rights lawyers and activists were arrested for investigation, among one of them, Liu Xiaobo was still under police detention.

A traitor declaration?

What is the reason for the Chinese government to repress the Charter? Of course there isn't any official explanation except the cliches that Liu Xiaobo has become a threat to the national security. Maybe we can read from the online pro-government opinions to make sense of the rationality. Sima Nan called the Charter a Chinese colour revolution declaration:


Those who signed after the release of “The Declaration of Chinese Colour Revolution” are a bunch of die hard pigs. The Mr. Perry Lin is not a stranger to many of you. Back in 1989, he has planned for the escape of a particular figure. For a very long period of time, he sponsor a bunch of people who advocate the so-called democratic movement. They all know that the huge amount of money doesn't come from Lin himself. There is a very strong backup, they only need a public face to manage the money.

Wu yu called the Charter 08 a Traitor Charter:


Yesterday I read from Sima Nan the Chinese and English version of the Charter 08. The whole charter upholds universal value represented by the U.S, is a traitor Charter. Ideology and national culture are the strongest binding force of a nation. Since this Charter 08 advocates U.S ideology, it is to uphold the binding force of the U.S, it is thus a traitor charter.

Even though, the Chinese government keeps repressing dissent voices, many bloggers in China still take the risk to sign the Charter and disseminate the information.

Overcome fear

Liberalist struggled for a few days and finally decided to sign the Charter with his real name:



Today, finally I have signed, with my real name and real occupation. This is probably late, but means a lot for me. I felt hesitated before, although a am a freelancer, but i have my own conflict as my work requires me to register with the government every year. If they decide to investigate, it is a piece of cake for them to harmonize me.

I have tortured myself for days, getting myself troubled. If I really agree with the issue, whether i do it or not, the reasons are all valid. It is a matter of decision. “For the sake of justice and leave the consequence behind” is a choice, getting myself away from the trouble water is another choice, there is no better choice. The only different is about how risk. Everyone has to be responsible for his or her own heart. And my final decision is: if I don't do it this time, I will be regret in the future.

Ran yunfei, a famous blogger and one of the 303 intellectuals co-signing the Charter, talks about counteracting the politics of fear in under the authoritarian state:


Some ask me, aren't you fear? Like everybody else, I do. However, my way of handling fear maybe different from others. Some say, your phone must be taped. I say, let it be (it doesn't mean that i appreciate the tapping. I oppose that, but my opposition won't make any different). When the issue touches upon public interest, what i say in the private won't be different from what i say in the public. Some say, someone may be tailing me. I say, I am not in that rank yet, even if that's the case, I don't mind having tea with the person, but he has to pay for his share. If you live according to their threat, you will please the state machine. They are most happy to see you live in fear, in anxiety without fun… Respect your principle and trajectory, that's the biggest hit to the fear creator.

Tie Liu a 76 year old writer explains why he signed the Charter:

我是个七十有六岁的老人,不顾疲劳戴着老花镜把”零8宪章”反反复复地看了三遍,最后毅然签上了自已的名字,位列57 位。”08宪章”写道:…制造了反右、大跃进、文革、六四、打压民间宗教活动与维权运动等一系列人权灾难,致使数千万人失去生命,国民和国家都付出了极为惨重的代价。”难道这不是事实吗?我是历史老人,各种灾难的见证者。

I am a 76 year old person, with my glasses on, I read the Charter 08 over and over for three times, then I decide to sign. I am number 57 in the list. In the Charter, it states: “…the Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957), the Great Leap Forward (1958–1960), the Cultural Revolution (1966–1969), the June Fourth (Tiananmen Square) Massacre (1989), and the current repression of all unauthorized religions and the suppression of the weiquan rights movement. During all this, the Chinese people have paid a gargantuan price. Tens of millions have lost their lives, and several generations have seen their freedom, their happiness, and their human dignity cruelly trampled. ” All these are historical truth, I am a witness of the history, the witness of all the catastrophes.

Protest in Hong Kong, without report

Although Hong Kong enjoys the freedom of speech and press, the mass media has ignored the Charter 08. Yesterday, I joined a protest calling for the release of Liu Xiaobo, but there isn't any local Chinese media, at the same time, the online discussions are very limited. I writes a citizen report at inmediahk.net about the protest and the media conditions:

大部份網上媒體,都是主流的鏡子或回音室,從《零八憲章》的傳播看,論壇和 Blog 的獨立性都成疑,畢竟個人的意識、喜好都跟著主流來轉…;再且,個人或缺乏組織的聚眾,在缺乏資源與意識下,亦無法發揮抗衡的作用。香港的 Bloggers 相對國內的,因為缺乏自主的組織與意識,與國內和台灣相比,顯得隨波逐流,而沒有成為資訊傳播的行動者。



For most online media, they just reflect the mainstream's interest. In the case of Charter 08, the independent nature of forums and blogs is in question. After all, individual liking and interest are affected by mainstream… Besides, individuals and individual aggregation without resources and conscious organizing cannot counter the mainstream. When compared with our Mainland counterpart, Hong Kong bloggers don't have autonomous network and awareness, they tend to follow the mainstream wave and fail to become information activists.

The dissemination of Charter 08 is a warning sign in Hong Kong. The government has been advocating patriotic education, and our mainstream media, especially T.V media, only talk about Olympics, space travel and central government's intervention on the financial crisis while cover up people's effort in promoting social transformation. On the other hand, online independent media has failed to grow strong and become counter propaganda force. Our next generation will become baby in the cradle of the State.

We need stronger, more diverse and autonomous independent media movement here.

Up till now, thousands of Chinese have signed the Charter and there are various online platforms for collecting signature, including: zola's google knol and inmediahk.net or you can send email to: 2008xianzhang@gmail.com or poonkarwai@gmail.com

English version of the Charter 08 can be found here, Japanese version here, and Chinese version here.

photos credit to hegelchong [1].