13 December 2009

Liu Xioabo & Democracy in China

"I would like once more to point out our experience, one that our Chinese
friends should adopt in one way or another, the experience that one may
never reckon with success, one may never reckon with the situation
changing tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, or in ten years. Perhaps it
will not. If that is what you are reckoning with, you will not get very far.

However, in our experience, not reckoning with that did pay in the end,
we found that it was possible to change the situation after all, and those
who were mocked as being Don Quixotes, whose efforts were never going
to come to anything, may in the end and to general astonishment get their
way. I think that is important. In a peculiar way, there is both despair and
hope in this. On the one hand we do not know how things will end, and on
the other, we know they may in fact end well." - Václav Havel (March 2009).

Liu Xiabo © Private (via Human Rights Watch).

One year ago I posted on the appearance of Charter 08 a document demanding basic political reforms that, in the event, 10,000 individuals managed to sign despite the government's effort to suppress it. You can read the Charter and some some subsequent documents here at the NYRB. Both The New York Times and The Guardian are reporting (here and here) that the authorities have indicted and now are are poised to imprison Liu Xiabo, one of the central organizers of the petition. Although some other signatories initially were detained and subsequently have been harassed, Liu Xiabo is the only one under indictment. Charter 08 was modeled after Charter 77 which served as a focal point for coordinating dissent and opposition to Communist regimes in Czechoslovakia and throughout Eastern Europe. Among the signatories to Charter 77 was Václav Havel, whose words of encouragement for the Chinese opposition I lifted above.

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