Students in your class are likely to know at least a little bit about China and the concept of democracy, but do they know about Charter 8 and Liu Xiaobo? They should, and so should we as educators. Liu is this year’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and his courage to publicly sign Charter 8 is a big part of the reason why.

If you are a teacher in the United States and your curriculum includes historic documents like the US Declaration of Independence, you can and should connect at least an introduction to Charter 8 as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in lessons this year. If you teach social studies, politics and government ANYWHERE on our planet, you should share about Liu Xiaobo and Charter 8 with your students.

John Parker’s article, “Why Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize Matters‘” provides excellent insights why. He writes:

It is fair to say that wider awareness of Charter 08 within China will, just by itself, seriously threaten CCP rule in the long term, even if there are no visible changes in the short term. The Charter’s preamble (translated by Human Rights Watch in China) contains a ringing endorsement of universal human rights:

‘Having experienced a prolonged period of human rights disasters and challenging and tortuous struggles, the awakening Chinese citizens are becoming increasingly aware that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values shared by all humankind, and that democracy, republicanism, and constitutional government make up the basic institutional framework of modern politics. A “modernization” bereft of these universal values and this basic political framework is a disastrous process that deprives people of their rights, rots away their humanity, and destroys their dignity. Where is China headed in the 21st century? Will it continue with this “modernization” under authoritarian rule, or will it endorse universal values, join the mainstream civilization, and build a democratic form of government? This is an unavoidable decision.’

Considering that Charter 08 verges on being a revolutionary manifesto, it is remarkable that its original authors, including Liu, signed the document with their real names, and were joined in doing so by hundreds of supporters, including many well-known dissidents. Even more remarkably, as the document has circulated around China since December 2008, many thousands of Chinese people, from all walks of life, have added their signatures. Since only a miniscule fraction of China’s population could have seen the Charter before Liu’s Nobel award, this certainly shows that there is genuine support for democracy in China.

Kudos to the Nobel Prize committee for recognizing and amplifying the work of Liu as well as other Chinese government reform advocates. Thankfully, the information landscape has changed fundamentally since the days of the Cultural Revolution in China.

There are many things as human beings we simply must know. Knowledge about our fundamental rights is on that list.

China matters, the people of China matter, and human rights matter. Go forth and have conversations with others you know (including students!) about Charter 8 and Liu Xiaobo!

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– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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5 Responses to China, Democracy, Charter 8 and Liu Xiaobo

  1. ChasL says:

    As educators you should also try to discover facts beyond the “official narrative” and offer your students wide range of perspectives.

    For example, have your student actually read the court verdict on Liu Xiaobo, perhaps they will discover this is not a straight forward case of free speech. In the verdict document, page 4 section 1 and 2, the prosecutors produced evidence Liu Xioabo received foreign financing for his domestic political activity.

    We outlaw such activity (FARA) ourselves. I did a little digging and it appears our goverment has indeed been paying Liu Xiaobo – nearly a million dollars in the past 5 years. It’s in the public record, just look up NED’s China grant publication for groups Liu founded (ICPC, Minzhu Zhongguo).

    Please don’t just blindly indoctrinate the next generation.

  2. Wesley Fryer says:

    Thanks so much for your comment, Chas. Encouraging critical thinking and not “blind indoctrination” is exactly the educative approach I encourage, so your suggestions are welcome.

    I haven’t read the court verdict on Liu Xiaobo and would love to. Do you have a link to it?

    Do you know if he was provided with a lawyer to argue his case, and can we view the statements of both the plaintiff and the state? It would be great to read both original documents and compare.

  3. ChasL says:

    It’s hidden in plain sight. Check Wikipedia for the Chinese court verdict, and NED.org for NED’s China grant publication.

  4. Wesley Fryer says:

    OK, I’ll look that up and share what I find.

    Do you know the answer to my question about a lawyer for Liu?

  5. John Parker says:

    I’m the author of the original piece, and I have some questions for ChasL.

    1) Let’s suppose the allegations that Liu’s China NGOs received money from overseas, including the USG, are true. Does that mean you are opposed to USG support for pro-democracy NGOs abroad?

    2) If the answer to 1) is yes, then why? Is it because you think a 1-party state is a superior system to multiparty democracy? And if the answer to that question is no, then why endorse the arguments of a 1-party state? (You are alleging that Liu is a creation of foreign governments, which is exactly the argument the CCP regime invariably makes when it deprives Chinese people of their legal rights.)

    3) Are you aware that Liu was fired from his government job after supporting the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests? Don’t you think that might have something to do with his willingness to accept foreign support?

    4) Are you opposed to the principles advocated by Liu in Charter 08? If so, which of those principles do you specifically oppose, and why? If not, why raise the red herring of “foreign funding”?

    5) Since you are against “blind indoctrination”, don’t you think it’s misleading to in effect allege that Liu is a tool of sinister (read: American) foreign forces, without noting that:
    – all the original signatories of Charter 08, without exception, are Chinese
    – the vast majority of the demands made in Charter 08 are already guaranteed, in theory, by the PRC Constitution
    – most of the content of Charter 08 derives from political principles that have gradually emerged from progressives in many nations since the 18th century, with influences ranging from the French Revolution to Sun Yat-Sen, and in fact overlap significantly with the original program of the CCP (for example, Mao is famously on record advocating multiparty politics).

    I eagerly await your response.

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