In the International Herald Tribune, Vaclav Havel, Dana Nemcova, & Vaclav Maly, all signatories of Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia, have called for the Nobel Peace Prize to be given to imprisoned activist Liu Xiaobo, one of the drafters of Charter 08:
Despite Liu’s imprisonment, his ideas cannot be shackled. Charter 08 has articulated an alternative vision of China, challenging the official line that any decisions on reforms are the exclusive province of the state. It has encouraged younger Chinese to become politically active, and boldly made the case for the rule of law and constitutional multiparty democracy. And it has served as a jumping-off point for a series of conversations and essays on how to get there.
Perhaps most important, as in Czechoslovakia in the 1970s, Charter 08 has forged connections among different groups that did not exist before. Before Charter 08, “we had to live in a certain kind of separate and solitary state,” one signatory wrote. “We were not good at expressing our own personal experiences to those around us.”
Liu Xiaobo and Charter 08 are changing that, for the better.
Of course, Charter 08 addresses a political milieu very different from 1970s Czechoslovakia. In its quest for economic growth, China has seemed to embrace some features far removed from traditional Communism. Especially for young, urban, educated white-collar workers, China can seem like a post-Communist country. And yet, China’s Communist Party still has lines that cannot be crossed. In spearheading the creation of Charter 08, Liu Xiaobo crossed the starkest line of all: Do not challenge the Communist Party’s monopoly on political power, and do not suggest that China’s problems — including widespread corruption, labor unrest, and rampant environmental degradation — might be connected to the lack of progress on political reform.
For making that very connection in an all too public way, Liu got more than a decade in prison.
Read more about Liu Xiaobo via CDT.