Charter 08 signer speaks
A Chinese democracy activist who signed the recent human rights manifesto called Charter 08 said in a speech that the conditions for democratic political reform in the communist state are the best since the ill-fated Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
Yang Jianli, an academic and fellow at Harvard University’s Committee on Human Rights Studies, praised the 303 academics, lawyers, businesspeople and some government officials who first signed Charter 08, the statement issued in December calling for democracy, rule of law and other basic freedoms in China. Mr. Yang signed the document within days of its release.
“Rather than engage in dialogue with these citizens, the Chinese government arrested Liu Xiaobo, a lead signatory, and harassed and intimidated the others,” Mr. Yang told the Defense Forum Foundation. “Nonetheless, almost 9,000 other Chinese citizens have signed Charter 08.”
“Not since 1989 have the forces for democracy so visibly formed inside China,” Mr. Yang said.
Tens of thousands of prodemocracy activists massed in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in the summer of 1989 and eventually were attacked by Chinese troops, killing scores and wounding hundreds. China’s government since then has said it will undertake political reforms, but a 2005 white paper stated that any reforms would keep the Marxist political system. China is ruled by a collective dictatorship of five to eight senior Communist officials, headed by Chairman Hu Jintao.
Mr. Yang, who was imprisoned in China for five years for prodemocracy activities, said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s recent remarks “demoralized Chinese activists and protesters, many of whom had gathered at the U.S. Embassy for her visit to seek her support,” Mr. Yang said.
Mrs. Clinton said the Obama administration would not let human rights dominate its discussions with China
“The Chinese government can only read Secretary Clinton’s remarks as giving it a free hand to exercise their arbitrary rule. The freedom fighters can only see this as a slap in the face. The world can only see this as the rise of the Chinese political system over the weak U.S. model,” Mr. Yang said.
State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said Mrs. Clinton’s position on Chinese human rights was outlined during the recent release of a report on the subject. “I feel she well explained that her approach to human rights promotion is based on exploring new methods, nontraditional methods, and working through all channels to achieve results,” Mr. Duguid said.
Mr. Yang said Charter 08 is significant because the authors are widely known and respected Chinese who risked their jobs and freedom by signing it.
Additionally, the charter provides a clear and detailed road map for affecting a peaceful transition to democracy in China.
The document states that “the Chinese people, who have en- dured human rights disasters and uncountable struggles, now see clearly that freedom, equality and human rights are universal values of humankind and that democracy and constitutional government are the fundamental framework for protecting these values.”
By ignoring these values, the Beijing government’s modernization program had “disastrous” consequences, the charter states, because “it has stripped people of their rights, destroyed their dignity and corrupted normal human intercourse.”
Perhaps most significant, the signers of Charter 08 are “the catalyst for formation of a viable opposition,” the first condition for democracy to take hold in China, Mr. Yang said.
China’s government has cracked down on the charter movement, arresting or interrogating all 303 initial signers.
The charter is modeled after Charter 77, the 1977 human rights manifesto by Soviet bloc dissidents. That charter, like Charter 08, is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights passed by the United Nations 60 years ago.
Wang Baodong, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said in response to Mr. Yang’s speech that “the Chinese political system and political institutions in place generally fit the nation’s conditions and economic and social development, which have led to remarkable economic achieve- ment and social progress.”
Mr. Wang said the political agenda of a “handful of people in China” contrasts with “the mainstream public will” for national unity, social stability and economic development.
“After saying that, and to better safeguard the people’s democratic rights and maintain social justice, China will continue to push forward political restructuring with Chinese features,” he said. rule out the possibility that the U.S. military will try to shoot down a Taepodong-2.
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In 1999, Mr. Einhorn’s nomination to be an assistant secretary of state was held up by the late Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, who demanded that the Clinton administration impose sanctions on China for selling M11 missiles to Pakistan. Mr. Helms said in an interview at the time: “No sanctions, no Einhorn.” Sanctions eventually were imposed, and Mr. Einhorn was confirmed.
A Republican Senate aide said Republicans think President Obama is entitled to his appointees but that Republican senators will look closely at nonproliferation appointees and may hold some up if their questions on the issue are not answered.
Yang Jianli, a signer of Char ter 08, says: “The Chinese government can only read Secretar y [of State Hillar y Rodham] Clinton’s remarks as giving it a free hand to exercise their arbitrar y rule. The freedom fighters can only see this as a slap in the face. The world can only see this as the rise of the Chinese political system over the weak U.S. model.”