Friday, January 02, 2009

Chinese Democracy Came Out Before Chinese Democracy

By: Stirling Newberry Friday January 2, 2009 4:01 pm
Charter 08 is a document signed by prominent civilian leaders in China calling for Democracy and the rule of law. It was issued on the 10th of December, in emulation of the Czechoslovakia's Charter 77. For all the jokes about Guns and Roses' most recent album, it seems that Chinese Democracy is going to be even more delayed, costly, and anticipated, than Chinese Democracy.
What did it call for? Amending the Chinese Constitution for Separation of Powers, Democratizing the lawmaking process, Independence of the judiciary, Public Institutions for the Public, Election of officials, an end to internal citizenships, Freedom of Association, Assembly and Religion, Rights to Property, Fiscal Reform, Social Security, Protection of Environment, and a Federal System. In short, a Chinese Democracy with many of the same ends and means as Democracy has around the world.
For a moment there was some wishful thinking about making Beijing sweat over the declaration. However, many of the signers were arrested within hours. Memories of what Beijingers call "The Accident" are still fresh on both sides. However, with the new western year, a crack down has started in earnest:
At least 70 of the Charter’s 303 original signatories have been summoned or interrogated by police and China’s powerful Central Propaganda Department has warned all domestic media not to interview or carry articles by anyone who signs the charter.
The interrogations gathered momentum this week and all those called in have been ordered to retract their support for the Charter. The government appears to be concerned by the heady language and the prominence of many of the signatories, who include mid-level government officials and Communist party academics.
Liu Xiaobo and Zhang Zhuhua were arrested before the declaration was even formally launched, and Liu was detained without being able to contact anyone for nearly a month. Central Government has accelerated it's pace of detentions and increased pressure for all of the signatories to denounce the charter. Several signers have made it clear that they are under informal house arrest, but believe it is unwise to publicize this at the present time.
The real engine is that China is about to enter a period where the easy growth of this export led boom is going to come to an end. Hard choices will have to be made. However, there is no powerful Democracy movement on the ground in China, instead, a great deal of rootless anger, and a great deal of wishful thinking. The central government has moved to coƶpt economically successful members of the business class, and fold them into the party and the decision making process. Charters are heroic, noble, and stirring. But there are still more people in China risking jail to pirate Chinese Democracy than willing to risk jail for Chinese Democracy. Democracy is a flower, it grows out of the soil, and not the air. Power grows in places other than the barrel of a gun, and charters can be part of that, but not until people who read them have the ability to make them real.

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