As in Czechoslovakia in the 1970s, the response of the Chinese government was swift and brutal. Dozens if not hundreds of signatories were called in for questioning. A handful of perceived ringleaders were detained. Professional promotions were held up, research grants denied and applications to travel abroad rejected. Newspapers and publishing houses were ordered to blacklist anyone who had signed Charter 08. Most seriously, the prominent writer and dissident Liu Xiaobo, a key drafter of Charter 08, was arrested. Liu had already spent five years in prison for his support of peaceful Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Held for more than a year with limited access to his wife or his lawyer, Liu was put on trial for subversion. In December 2009, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison.Despite Liu’s imprisonment, his ideas cannot be shackled. Charter 08 has articulated an alternative vision of China, challenging the official line that any decisions on reforms are the exclusive province of the state. It has encouraged younger Chinese to become politically active, and boldly made the case for the rule of law and constitutional multiparty democracy. And it has served as a jumping-off point for a series of conversations and essays on how to get there.Perhaps most important, as in Czechoslovakia in the 1970s, Charter 08 has forged connections among different groups that did not exist before. Before Charter 08, “we had to live in a certain kind of separate and solitary state,” one signatory wrote. “We were not good at expressing our own personal experiences to those around us.”Liu Xiaobo and Charter 08 are changing that, for the better.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Vaclav Havel Calls for Nobel Peace Prize for Liu Xiaobo
Former Czech dissident and President Vaclav Havel wrote an op-ed piece in New York Times today calling for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. The letter is cosigned by two other former Czech dissidents who had participated in the Charter 77 movement thirty years ago.
The letter praises Liu Xiaobo's efforts in leading the Charter 08 movement in China as an echo of the Charter 77:
The authors "ask the Nobel Committee to honor Liu Xiaobo's more than two decades of unflinching and peaceful advocacy for reform, and to make him the first Chinese recipient of that prestigious award."