Category Archives: Charter 08

Despite new economic freedom, still no mention of Tiananmen

As we wrote in an earlier post,  this month marked the 23rd anniversary of what the Chinese government refers to only as “the June 4th incident”. Yet that “event” became a pivotal moment for the nation as leaders made a deal with its citizens: you can get rich (in fact, Deng declared “to get rich is glorious”), but don’t try to bring down One Party Rule.

Our recent trip to SE Asia included stops in south China and Hong Kong. With each visit since 1989 we’ve seen extraordinary changes. China has made impressive economic gains: second largest world economy, over 300 million people living middle and upper middle class lives, and almost 100 billionaires. The big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou on the mainland are so modern, it’s hard to find much of old China  there.


(photo of Guangzhou)

And Hong Kong- well that’s like New York on steroids.


(photo of Hong Kong)

What continues, however, is the fear by the government of any kind of rebellion resembling the failed 1989 student movement, or worse, the successes of the recent Arab Spring. Internet censors are constantly checking for key words like “Tiananmen” or “Charter ’08”, the online proclamation that China should embrace democracy which sent Liu Xiabo, winner of the 2110 Nobel Peace Prize to jail for 11 years.

Even Apple has had to tailor its iPhone sold in China to satisfy the government.  A recent online Daily Feed article stated that “development testers have found that when you ask about Siri about Tiananmen Square, or ‘the events of June 4, 1989,’ they receive confused or nonsensical responses. Attempts to even ask for directions to Tiananmen Square return similarly garbled results. This last detail is particularly odd because, apart from its role as site of pro-democracy protests, Tiananmen Square is a major landmark in Beijing. From a geographic standpoint, not being able to locate it is roughly akin to an American iPhone saying it doesn’t recognize the phrase ‘Central Park.'”


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Filed under Asia, Charter 08, China, June 4th incident, Rabbit in the Moon

23rd anniversary of Tiananmen

Hard to believe 23 years have gone by since the Tiananmen massacre of June 4, 1989. Despite the distance of time, any official discussion of the event the Chinese government still refers to as merely the “June 4th incident” is taboo. While Hong Kong remains surprisingly open in terms of freedom to assemble and protest about that night (there are yearly candlelight vigils on the anniversary of Tiananmen), there were no demonstrations reported across Mainland China where the events of June 4th are still considered “counter-revolutionary”.

Tank Man

“Tank Man”

When the Shanghai Composite Index opened today at 2,246.98, several bloggers within China interpreted this as the 23rd anniversary of the June 4, 1989 crackdown when read from right to left. Their blogs were immediately shut down by censors. The Chinese have a long tradition of being superstitious- especially about numbers. There has been some speculation as to whether the fall in the index represented the work of hackers, but many believe that to be highly unlikely.

In the meantime, a spokesman for the US State Department encouraged the Chinese government to  “release everyone still serving sentences for their participation in the 1989 demonstrations; to provide a full public accounting of those killed, detained or missing; and to end the continued harassment of demonstration participants and their families.”

Liu Weimin, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, expressed “strong dissatisfaction” with the statement.

Despite its acceptance of a more Western style capitalistic approach for its economy, the Chinese government is committed to one party rule at all costs.

Liu Xiaobo, the winner of the Nobel Peace prize in 2010 and was involved in the 1989 demonstrations  is serving an 11 year sentence for his  internet proclamation “Charter ’08” urging China to end its one party rule and embrace democracy.

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Filed under Asia, Charter 08, China, Deborah Shlian, medical mystery thriller, Rabbit in the Moon, Tiananmen massacre

Liu wins Nobel Prize

In December, 2009, we blogged about 54 year old Liu Xiaobo and his harsh 11 year prison sentence for subversion.

Yesterday, the passionate, chain-smoking Chinese dissident was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize Friday for helping to spearhead a campaign for more freedom in China.

Liu is currently serving his sentence at Jinzhou prison in Liaoning, hundreds of miles from his home and wife in Beijing.

Ma Zhaoxu, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “Liu Xiaobo is a sentenced criminal who has violated Chinese law,” and honoring him “runs counter to the principles of the Nobel Peace Prize.”

In 1996, Liu spent 3 years in a labor camp after demanding clemency for those still imprisoned as a result of their roles in the 1989 student democracy demonstrations that resulted in the shooting of hundreds if not thousands in Tiananmen Square by Chinese soldiers. To this day, the Chinese government refers to that massacre as the June 4th incident.

Charter 08, a document penned by Liu and hundreds of other dissidents in 2008, called for the end of one party rule in China and ultimately led to the 11 year sentence Liu is now serving. Ironically, Charter 08 is virtually unknown in China because the government made a concerted effort at the time to shut down any mention of it on the Internet within the country.

Whether the Nobel Prize will soften the government’s attitude toward dissidents like Liu and events like the Tiananmen massacre remains to be seen.

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Filed under Charter 08, Liu Xiaobo, Tiananmen massacre

Chinese dissident gets 11 year prison sentence for subversion

On December 10, 2008, International Human Rights Day, a petition called Charter ‘08 appeared on the Internet. More than 10,000 dissidents signed the document  before it was removed from the web by the Chinese government. The petition was drafted by 53 year old Liu Xiaobo a former literature professor who spent 21 months in detention for his participation in the 1989 pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square. It called for the end to China’s one-Party rule including free speech, the rule of law and open elections.

Last Friday, the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Liu to 11 years in prison for subversion based on his involvement in Charter 08 as well as six articles he published on the Internet outside of China. For two years after he serves his term, Liu will be prevented from any public dissent. Most China experts agree that what is the longest sentence for subversion in over a decade was meant to send a message to other potential critics of the government.

In recent years, as China has had to deal with such domestic issues as tainted milk, poorly constructed schools that crushed many children in the Sichuan earthquake, increasing poverty in the countryside and rising government corruption, the leadership received more criticism from within the country. The same fears of destabilization that resulted in the shooting of hundreds if not thousands of protestors in Tiananmen Square in 1989, produced a quick reaction to Charter ‘08 with a wave of crackdowns designed to squelch dissent before a series of politically sensitive 2009 anniversaries. These included the 50th anniversary of the Tibet uprising that led to the Dalai Lama’s exile on March 10th, the 10th anniversary of the Fuling Gong protests on April 25, the 10th anniversary of the banning of the Fuling Gong from China on July 22th, the 90th anniversary of the pro-democracy student movement that started the cultural rebirth of China on May 4th, the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre on June 4th and the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China on October 1st.

According to human rights organizations, over 100 signatories of Charter ’08 were immediately placed under surveillance. Wong Rongquig, age 65, and a long time activist who has attempted to organization the Democratic Party, a new political party, was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of subversion of state power. Liu was held in secret for over a year before his trial, which lasted just 2 hours. His lawyers apparently had under 2 weeks for preparation.

Chinese Internet service providers removed all postings of Charter ’08., one of the most influential hosting services for Chinese intellectuals was shut down.

In a further Internet crackdown, the government launched a campaign to control online portals and major search engines such as Google and MSN by searching in Chinese for the words: “Charter ‘08”.

News of Liu’s sentence was officially blocked in China, but managed to be spread worldwide through Twitter.

At a time when China is enjoying a new wave of nationalism and its government, greater popular support that at any other time in recent Chinese history, there is clearly still the constant fear within the leadership that “too much” media freedom could potentially challenge their one-Party hold in the face of growing economic and social destabilization.

On Thursday, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman rejected calls from international sources to free Liu, stating that this was strictly an internal issue.

In 1996, Liu spent 3 years in a labor camp after demanding clemency for those still imprisoned as a result of their roles in the 1989 student democracy demonstrations. To this day, the Chinese government refers to the massacre at Tiananmen Square as the June 4th incident. Charter 08 is virtually unknown in China.

Read the Charter ’08 text

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Filed under Charter 08, Chinese activist, Liu Xiaobo, Tiananmen massacre