Saturday, October 9, 2010
Yesterday, Lui Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. “Who the heck is that?” you may ask. He is a courageous Chinese dissident and one of the authors of Charter 08, a manifesto published in the People’s Republic of China in December 2008. Charter 08 demands freedom and democracy for the Chinese people. Lui Xiaobo will not easily enjoy the prize money since he is serving year two of an eleven-year prison sentence in China as a result of Charter 08’s publication.
I found the English translation of Charter 08 on a website called Human Rights in China (HRIC). The document outlines 19 demands for democratic change—concepts we take all too much for granted in the U.S. including an independent judiciary, a guarantee of human rights, freedom of association, assembly, expression and religion, and election of public officials. The Chinese government is quite unhappy with the Norwegian Nobel Committee for awarding this prize and has warned Norway formally that this act will “pull the wrong strings” in the relationship between the two countries.
Since I work closely with people who live in China I take great interest in the changes that country is now undergoing. The people I work with are like anybody else—they want to earn a decent living and provide the best they can for themselves and their families. We do not talk about dissidence since they could risk imprisonment. But I believe in them and like them, and I think I see signs of an awakening to the desire for these long-denied freedoms. The Chinese people have been through many trials but they will overcome; it is time. Charter 08 says it very well:
“After experiencing a prolonged period of human rights disasters and a tortuous struggle and resistance, the awakening Chinese citizens are increasingly and more clearly recognizing that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal common values shared by all humankind, and that democracy, a republic, and constitutionalism constitute the basic structural framework of modern governance. A “modernization” bereft of these universal values and this basic political framework is a disastrous process that deprives humans of their rights, corrodes human nature, and destroys human dignity. Where will China head in the 21st century? Continue a “modernization” under this kind of authoritarian rule? Or recognize universal values, assimilate into the mainstream civilization, and build a democratic political system? This is a major decision that cannot be avoided.”
In other words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...”
We live in interesting times. Right on, China.