12/17/2008, 00.00
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Bao Tong: Beijing should explain how Charter '08 violates the law

Endorsements are increasing for the proposal for the democratic transformation of the country. Former communist leader Bao Tong has sent an open letter to Beijing, stressing that everything requested in Charter '08 is already provided for in the Chinese constitution, and asking them to explain "why it is illegal."

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Despite censorship and repression, support is growing for Charter '08, a document asking the government for more democracy and respect for rights. The signatories have reached 3,600, in spite of the authorities' efforts to eliminate document from the internet. An open letter to the government from former communist leader Bao Tong, calling upon them to explain why the document is believed to be against Chinese law.

The police have interrogated, threatened, and arrested dozens of the 303 initial signers. Liu Xiabo, a dissident of the Tiananmen Square era, has been detained since December 8, and dozens of people have been calling for his release over the internet.

Experts note that most of the rights invoked in the charter are already recognized by the Chinese constitution, but are neglected in practice. Pu Zhiqiang, a lawyer in Beijing and a defender of human rights, has signed the document and maintains that "the government has no reason not to approve it. There are no mistaken ideologies in it. The charter does not incite to violence, it does not intend to subvert the current social order."

Bao Tong, deputy of communist party secretary Zhao Ziyang, has been under house arrest for 20 years for supporting the pro-democracy protests in 1989, and has signed the charter as "a citizen." At the news of the arrests and threats against signers, he sent from his home the following open letter to the government (published by Radio Free Asia).

"1. I call on the Chinese government to to answer me this: "Where is the crime in Charter 08?" The basic concepts of the Charter are freedom, human rights, equality, republicanism, democracy, and constitutional rule. So would the powers-that-be please tell 1.3 billion people why freedom is a crime, why human rights, why equality, or republicanism, and what is criminal about democracy and the rule of law under the Constitution? "Charter 08" puts forward 19 propositions. Not one of them is the invention of the people who signed it. They have all already been implemented in modern, civilized countries, and they have shown themselves to be part of a worthwhile system with beneficial effects. If the authorities care to examine each of the propositions closely, under a magnifying glass, under a microscope, in the hall of mirrors, they could perhaps tell us which crimes are being committed by each article? The aim of the Charter is to call on any Chinese people who still have a sense of purpose, whether in the corridors of power or in remote parts of the country, regardless of personal status, to take part in a movement of citizens, to help realize a dream that has gripped the people of this country for more than 100 years. How is that a crime?

"2. I, as the former director of the Chinese Communist Party's think-tank for reforms of the political system, who have also served time in jail as a political prisoner of former premier Li Peng, who brought illegal charges and fake evidence against me, I can tell the Chinese government that there is nothing criminal in Charter 08. The main concept, and what it calls for, are not criminal. We do not live in Imperial China, nor do we live in the Bureaucracy of China, nor even in the Communist Party State of China. We live in the People's Republic of China. All that Charter 08 seeks to do is to extend the original meaning and influence of the Constitution. According to an old dictum of Mao Zedong, the key to the problem lies within the problem itself. There may be a great many flaws in the Charter, but they do not lie in the question of its legality. Fortunately, we live in a republic where all power is in the hands of the people. Its Constitution protects the rights of its citizens, and forbids the authorities to trample on their rights. Under such circumstances, the news that some of the people involved with the Charter have had their homes searched and been subjected to detention and interrogation cannot but come as a shock. One might say that these actions are a challenge to Chinese citizens, but it would be better to say that they are a challenge to the Republic and to its Constitution.

"3. The government carried out these searches, detentions and interrogations. I don't know exactly who they are, this 'government.' I just know that if a problem arises at the grassroots level, then it's up to the next level up to correct it. If an incident occurs higher up the chain of command, then the highest level of authority is called in to sort it out. If there is a problem at the highest level, then it's up to the people to do something about it. There should be a mechanism for correcting problems in a republic. A republic in which wrongs are just allowed to be wrong, and in which wrongs are piled upon wrongs is not worthy of being called a republic.

"4. While I sit here quietly waiting for them to search my home, waiting to be detained and interrogated, I am also waiting quietly for a reply from the authorities. I call on all those who have already signed the Charter, and all those who are about to sign, to stay cool-headed and logical, optimistic and resolute. I send my regards to Zhang Zuhua, who has already returned home, and his wife Tian Yuan. Also to Liu Xiaobo, who is still in detention, and to his wife, Liu Xia. I wish them all peace and good health."

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See also
Party official issues urgent call for democratic reforms
Party divided over arresting all (or some) Charter 08 signers
Pro-democracy activist Wang Rongqing sentenced to six years for "subversion"
White House to stop Beijing's "imperialist" policy in the South China Sea
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