Charter 08 has been around for just over a year and has reportedly gathered more than 10,000 signatures. Liu Xiaobo, one of its founders, was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Christmas Day last week.
While most of the original 303 signatories to Charter 08 were prominent liberal mainland Chinese public intellectuals, the larger group of people who tend to fall in that category have for several years often been criticized for a tendency to remain silent on China's numerous social issues.
More recently, well-known Beijing Film Academy professor Cui Weiping has been getting some of that on Twitter, which she took up in late 2009. Following several tweets from her followers, though not her stated motivation, she decided this week to phone up friends and colleagues and tweet their responses to the news of Liu's heavy sentence.
Many have been translated by C.A. Yeung at Under the Jacaranda Tree, but below is the GVO version along with several newer tweets. As Yeung writes, while not all those interviewed share the vision put forth by Charter 08 or even with Liu himself:
“this time there seems to be a consensus among them that (1) Liu Xiaobo’s conviction constitutes some kind of Wenzi Yu (文字狱 means jail sentences for publishing articles on topics deem to be politically incorrect); and (2) it is both legally and morally unacceptable to punish a person for exercising his freedom of speech.“
The crime Liu Xiaobo was sentenced for was based on Charter 08. The Charter was a reaffirmation of the United Nations [Universal] Declaration on Human Rights, therefore Liu's sentence defies civilized norms widely recognized by humankind. It also defies the current Chinese constitution, because the constitution clearly states that Chinese citizens possess freedom of speech. To be frank, it flies in the face of the Chinese people and human conscience in general.
It's a travesty that people are still being penalized for their words and such. I didn't sign the Charter, but I accept the notion that while I might not agree with your point of view, I'll defend your right to express it, and I firmly oppose the sentencing of Liu Xiaobo to prison for his writings.
It's hard to comprehend how a Chinese citizen, using the rights granted to him by the constitution in expressing his constructive views on national politics, would be punished so harshly. China is a signatory to the International Covenant on Human Rights, and China wants a greater role internationally and the prestige that comes with, its words must be in line with its deeds. Judging from the number of countries which have reported on Liu's case, this is something which has done much to hurt China's prestige.
It's the 21st Century, and people are still being criminalized for their words. This is a civil rights violation and a desecration to civilization, once again smearing China's name! The authorities’ insistence on making Liu Xiaobo a criminal has made him a hero in the hearts and minds of many. With the gap so vast, how will the rulers manage?
In 1968, I was sentenced to twenty years in prison for the crime of counter-revolutionary actions; in 2009, for the crime of inciting subversion of state power, Liu Xiaobo has been given a sentence of eleven years. We both were made criminals for our words, one forty-one years before the other. This can only make one wonder: this system of ours, has it really improved much? Has our society made any progress at all?
I don't necessarily agree with all of Liu Xiaobo's views and methods, but that's beside the point; Liu Xiaobo is a peaceful and rational critic and to incarcerate him for this is a sign of weakness, one very difficult to accept.
“Since antiquity many essays have landed their authors in jail. So you may well add another 11 years to the toll. The pursuit for freedom has never ceased and will continue, beyond 08. – A Sage has been born in China.” [Yeung's translation]
With as open as society is today, freedom of speech has already become commonly accepted by society. From Tan Zuoren to Liu Xiaobo, how is that such preposterous regression can still occur?
In total, Liu Xiaobo has been sent to prison three times, with each time bringing him more honor than the last and this topping it all. A glorious precedent exists in Chinese history, that of Fan Zhongyan, who said he would rather die than live in silence, was put away three times throughout his lifetime. The first time, his friends said, “a star has fallen.” The second time, people said “now the moon.” The final time, “and the sun.” He laughed in response: “the three phases of Fan Zhongyan.” This is what Liu Xiaobo is today.
贺卫方的看法：不久前，某海外传媒来电采访，问我对于Mr. Hsiao-po Liu的十一年之罚。我没有好气地说：“我欲无言。”对方问：“难道说你不觉得十一年太重？”我反问：“难道说判三年就适当么？对于根本无罪者，一天都太重，一天之罚都是冤狱。再说，你真以为他会在牢里服满十一年？”
They say Liu Xiaobo is a “dissident”, but just what is a “dissident”? A normal society should have a wide variety of opinions. Intellectuals I've come across in places like Hong Kong, Taiwan and America dare to proclaim themselves dissidents, to distinguish themselves. But of the hopeless and oppressed “dissidents” I've met in places like Myanmar, Iran and China, most of them bear that as their crime. It's only in countries where the only view is “the right view” that you'll see “dissidents” like Liu Xiaobo.
What Charter 08 proclaimed were demands for basic and legitimate rights, and the social change it called for was through moderate change and common sense, so where is the crime? Even if its assertions were completely wrong, that's not the kind of speech that can be criminalized. Sentencing Liu Xiaobo for a crime is the true incitement to subvert state authority, and flies in the face of social conscience and humanity.
I can't circumvent internet filtering, and I didn't see any reports on this in mainland media. I'm firmly of the opinion that an unarmed scholar was sentenced to eleven years behind bars is purely rumor manufactured by a small number of hostile forces. How could a grand, honorable and upright nation possibly allow something as unconstitutional as this to occur? I hope that the many and good masses who don't understand the truth can open their eyes and see the truth for themselves, not to be confused by rumors.
That somebody could be punished for their thoughts and asking questions, can only be explained as a violation and challenge to that most important and most basic of rights in modern political life, freedom of thought and speech. In my view as someone who hasn't signed it, Charter 08 is completely well-intentioned and constructive. If even that can't be tolerated, then it's a true tragedy. I don't necessarily agree with some of Liu Xiaobo's views, but his freedom to express them absolutely ought to be protected.
Speaking frankly, I've made my fair share of criticisms of Liu Xiaobo. But he shouldn't have been sentenced for his writings. This is a bad precedent to set, nothing good can come of it.
“I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to death your right to say it”, this is the consensus of civilized society and the basis of rule of law. What place does speech crime have in civilization? Or in the constitution? I urge the Supreme Court to intervene and strike down this charge, uphold civilization, uphold the dignity of the constitution.
I don't agree with many of Liu Xiaobo's political views, and in the past we had nothing good to say to each other. But incarcerating someone for speech is just wrong and unwise and should stop.
I approve all views regarding freedom of speech, but let me consider the pros and cons. Lao Tzu said: “something lost is something gained.” If you go too far in anything you do, someone gains and someone loses, but it works both ways.
[When I phoned him he said he hasn't heard about Liu Xiabo's sentencing, that is attention is mostly kept elsewhere, like on Xiao Shenyang. I explained that I only wanted to hear people's thoughts, he said] “no thoughts whatsoever.”
Neither hopeful nor hopeless (regarding Liu Xiaobo).