Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Charter of 08

The "Charter of 08" which led to the arrest of Liu Xiaobo has been translated into English by American Professor Perry Link. Taking at its face value, the charter does not contain any ground-breaking material by itself. Mainly, it is a list of liberties people have long taken for granted in the "free world".

However, the significance of this charter lies in the fact that it is cosigned by 303 known scholars and the like. Additional signatures are still being collected. A collection action by the intellectual community in China on such a scale has not been seen for decades. In fact, the last time this happened was precisely in 1989.

The precursor of the 1989 student movement started when Professor Fang Lizhi wrote an open letter to Deng Xiaoping for the release of political prisoners. His letter was followed by several supporting ones, each co-signed by dozens of prominent intellectuals. Later that year, in the heat of the movement, various statements co-signed by hundreds were frequently published.

Indeed, the 303 signatures of this Charter of 08 included many familiar names who had in one way or another directly involved in the 1989 student movement: Yu Haocheng, Bao Tong, Liu Xiaobo, Gao Yu, Dai Qing, Jiang Qisheng, Chen Ziming, Li Datong, Zhou Duo, Pu Zhiqiang, Ma Shaofang, Liang Xiaoyan, and Zheng Xuguang.

It also includes a few parents and relatives of the victims of Tiananmen Massacre, known collectively as the Tiananmen Mothers.

If nothing else, this collective action demonstrates the power and sophistication in organization or at least networking skills within the suppressed dissident community.

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