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Charter 08 facts for kids

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Protest in Hong Kong against the arrest of Liu Xiaobo
Charter 08
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Charter 08 is a manifesto initially signed by over 350 Chinese intellectuals and human rights activists. It was published on 10 December 2008, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopting name and style from the anti-Soviet Charter 77 issued by dissidents in Czechoslovakia. Since its release, more than 10,000 people inside and outside China have signed the charter.

One of the authors of Charter '08, Liu Xiaobo, was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

Demands

Many of the original signatories were prominent citizens inside and outside the government, including lawyers; a Tibetan poet and essayist, Woeser; and Bao Tong, a former senior Communist Party official, who all faced a risk of arrest and jail. The Charter calls for 19 changes including an independent legal system, freedom of association and the elimination of one-party rule. "All kinds of social conflicts have constantly accumulated and feelings of discontent have risen consistently," it reads. "The current system has become backward to the point that change cannot be avoided." China remains the only large world power to still retain an authoritarian system that so infringes on human rights, it states. "This situation must change! Political democratic reforms cannot be delayed any longer!"

Specific demands are:

  1. Amending the Constitution.
  2. Separation of powers.
  3. Legislative democracy.
  4. An independent judiciary.
  5. Public control of public servants.
  6. Guarantee of human rights.
  7. Election of public officials.
  8. Abolition of Hukou system.
  9. Freedom of association.
  10. Freedom of assembly.
  11. Freedom of expression.
  12. Freedom of religion.
  13. Civic education.
  14. Free markets and protection of private property, including privatizing state enterprises and land.
  15. Financial and tax reform.
  16. Social security.
  17. Protection of the environment.
  18. A federated republic.
  19. Truth in reconciliation.

The opening paragraph of the charter states:

This year is the 100th year of China's Constitution, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 30th anniversary of the birth of the Democracy Wall, and the 10th year since China signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. After experiencing a prolonged period of human rights disasters and a tortuous struggle and resistance, the awakening Chinese citizens are increasingly and more clearly recognizing that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal common values shared by all humankind, and that democracy, a republic, and constitutionalism constitute the basic structural framework of modern governance. A "modernization" bereft of these universal values and this basic political framework is a disastrous process that deprives humans of their rights, corrodes human nature, and destroys human dignity. Where will China head in the 21st century? Continue a "modernization" under this kind of authoritarian rule? Or recognize universal values, assimilate into the mainstream civilization, and build a democratic political system? This is a major decision that cannot be avoided.
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