Richard Spencer writes in his Telegraph blog:
Prof Xu [Xu Youyu (徐友渔)] said he was deeply pessimistic about the future. He acknowledged the point that there were leaders now in high office who had very similar experiences to his own – disillusionment with the Cultural Revolution, adoption of a reform agenda, study abroad – but, as he put it, “it is the seat that is important, not the personal view”.
In other words, the very act of joining the apparatus removed any scope for personal opinion to emerge, and by the time you reached the top, it was too late – your mast was firmly attached to the (single) sail. He saw little chance for reform from within.
In these circumstances, the only position for intellectuals such as him was to stand apart and hold on to their personal truths, such as those espoused in the Charter.
In fact, elsewhere in the interview he was less bleak. He rightly located some of the arguments about the Charter in the very lively debate in China’s intellectual world, including newspapers, between those who believe that notions of human rights, freedom of speech and democracy and so on are “universal values” to which China should ascribe, or whether they are Western values which West-friendly academics (such as him) are trying to impose on an unwilling and unready nation. Prof Xu, needless to say, argues for the former, and wonders whether those who argue against are really serious. What world do they believe in?