A year ago, on 8 December 2008, Liu Xiaobo was detained on suspicion of inciting subversion of State power. Hours later, Charter 08, a document that Liu helped to draft, was released online. Charter 08, signed initially by 303 prominent Chinese citizens, calls for 19 changes to improve human rights situation in China. Since then more than eight thousand people around the world have signed the Charter.
In spite of straight censorship the Chinese ruling regime has imposed on the dissemination of information about the Charter, news continue to leak out about Chinese citizens commemorating the first anniversary of the release of the document. There are also renewed calls for support from the international community to secure the release of Liu Xiaobo.
The following is a report by Sun Wenguang, one of the original 303 Charter 08 signatories. Here Sun wrote about a seminar held in Shandong province to mark the first anniversary. The English translation is mine. Apart from calling for the release of Liu Xiaobo, the seminar also discussed an item in Charter 08, namely “the nationalisation of the Chinese military”. My co-blogger Ned Kelly asks me to add a note here for the benefit of readers who are unfamiliar with the history of the People’s Republic of China. Unlike in most countries, China’s military establishment, or the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), is the military arm of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It is under the command of the Central Military Commission of the CCP. The Chinese Ministry of National Defence, which operates under the State Council, does not exercise any authority over the PLA.
Shandong Signatories met to commemorate the Anniversary of Charter 08
By Sun Wenguang
A group of over 10 signatories gathered a day before the first anniversary of the release of Charter 08 to commemorate the event. They were from various regions in Shandong province, including Jinan, Taian, Liaocheng and Yantai.
The speakers at the Seminar were: Che Hongnian, Shi Ruoping, Li Shijun, Sun Wenguang, Qin Zhigang, Li Hongwei, Lu Yang and Li Duilong. The speakers affirmed:
“Charter 08 is the most important collective declaration since June 4th 1989. It expresses a demand for human rights, democracy, freedom and rule of law. The Charter 08 signatories, even after being subjected to investigation by National Security agencies, have unanimously confirmed their support for Charter 08. No one has expressed regret or has revoked his signature.”
Those who attended the Seminar made a joint pleading for the immediate release of Mr Liu Xiaobo, the coordinator of the drafting of Charter 08. Mr Liu has made a remarkable personal achievement and has written a glorious page in the history of China’s struggle for democracy. Consequently he was taken away from home in December 2008. His arrest was illegal, because the Police failed to produce any warrant for his arrest and detention. For a very long time, Mr Liu had been denied his rights to meet with his lawyer and his family. The lack of legal justice in China becomes obvious when people who advocate the rule of law are deprived of legal rights, and when those who call for freedom are imprisoned. Mr Liu’s arrest explains why the release of Charter 08 is timely. It also reminds us of the price that many brave people have paid for the democratisation of China. These people deserve our respect.
During the Seminar, Ms Li Hongwei, a victim of the Daming Lake forced evictions, came forward to tell her personal story. She told the audience how her property rights were violated, how her attempts to take legal action against the violators were repeatedly dismissed in court, how her petitions were ignored, and how she was taken away and locked up by the Police when she expressed her opinion in public. Her personal story testifies to the importance of legal justice; it also testifies to the importance of Charter 08! Ms Li expressed her unconditional support for those articles in Charter 08 that advocate human rights, freedom and democracy.
Many Seminar participants also expressed their support for the part of Charter 08 about the nationalisation of China’s military. It is a common practice in most countries to have military forces pledging loyalty to the Nation. Many recent discussions in China have come to the conclusion that the nationalisation of the military is a prerequisite, not just for the implementation of democracy and the rule of law, but also for the establishment of a constitutional government.
Back in the 1940s, the Chinese Communist Party repeatedly shouted slogans about democracy, freedom and the need for a constitutional government. Today, it is time for these slogans to become a reality.
The Seminar was held for approximately three hours on 7 December 2009.