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.
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
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