Václav Havel: China’s Human-Rights Activists Need Support

Václav Havel, former dissident turned president of the Czech Republic, has written an op-ed in the Journal, calling on the international community to support signatories to Charter 08, especially the imprisoned writer Liu Xiaobo. He begins by discussing his role in the creation of Charter 77, on which Charter 08 is modeled:

With the release of Charter 77, we wanted to create not a membership organization, but instead, as I wrote then, “a free, informal open community of people of different convictions, different faiths, and different professions united by the will to strive, individually and collectively, for the respect of civic and in our own country and throughout the world.”

More than three decades later, in December 2008, a group of Chinese citizens has taken our modest effort as their model. They have made a similar call — for human rights, good governance and respect for the responsibility of citizens to keep watch over their government — to ensure that their state plays by the rules of a modern open society.

The document they have issued is an impressive one. In it, the authors of Charter 08 call for protection of basic rights, increased judicial independence, and legislative democracy. But they do not stop there. With the passage of , we have come to realize that a free and open society means more than the protection of basic rights. To that end, the signatories of Charter 08 also wisely call for better environmental protection, a bridging of the rural-urban divide, better provision of social security, and a serious effort to reconcile with human-rights abuses committed in decades past.

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