Charter 08 is a manifesto that was originally signed by over 300 Chinese intellectuals and human rights activists to promote political reform and democratization in the People’s Republic of China. The Charter calls for, among other things, greater freedom of expression, an independent judiciary, free elections and human rights. Even though a number of signatories have been intimidated or placed under arrest, the Charter continues to gain support, with over 8,000 Chinese inside and outside China putting their names to the document. Bao Tong, a former political aide who has been under house arrest for nearly two decades said, “I call on the Chinese government to answer me this: where is the crime in Charter 08?”
The Charter was published on 10 December 2008, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the 100th year of China’s Constitution. Its name is a reference to Charter 77, issued by dissidents in the former Czechoslovakia.
Yangzom Brauen speaks with Professor Perry Link, one of the foremost Western China scholars. He is an international expert on Chinese human rights issues and was one of the translators of the “Tiananmen Papers,” which described the government’s response to the 1989 democracy protests. Blacklisted by China’s government in 1996, he has since been denied entrance to the country.