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The New York Review of Books: China's Charter 08

Translator: Perry Link, Chancellorial Chair for Innovative Teaching, University of California, Riverside. Coeditor of "The Tiananmen Papers"
December 18, 2008

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The document below, signed by more than two thousand Chinese citizens, was conceived and written in conscious admiration of the founding of Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia, where, in January 1977, more than two hundred Czech and Slovak intellectuals formed a loose, informal, and open association of people...united by the will to strive individually and collectively for respect for human and civil rights in our country and throughout the world.

The Chinese document calls not for ameliorative reform of the current political system but for an end to some of its essential features, including one-party rule, and their replacement with a system based on human rights and democracy.

The prominent citizens who have signed the document are from both outside and inside the government, and include not only well-known dissidents and intellectuals, but also middle-level officials and rural leaders. They chose December 10, the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as the day on which to express their political ideas and to outline their vision of a constitutional, democratic China. They want Charter 08 to serve as a blueprint for fundamental political change in China in the years to come. The signers of the document will form an informal group, open-ended in size but united by a determination to promote democratization and protection of human rights in China and beyond.

Following the text is a postscript describing some of the regime's recent reactions to it.

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