Commentary: 'Charter 08' is small step toward freer China

This editorial appeared in The Kansas City Star.

During the Beijing Olympics, China attempted to present the image of a modern and gleaming country striding into the future.

Now hundreds of intellectuals and activists have offered a broader vision of China's future. It attempts to take the country beyond the current development model of modernization within an authoritarian political system.

The group has published what its members call "Charter 08," a document that calls for an end to one-party rule in a free and democratic China.

Perry Link of the University of California, who translated the document, says those who wrote it were guided by Czechoslovakia's "Charter 77."

Signed in 1977, that manifesto laid down the principles for a free, non-communist elected government in that country.

The signers of China's Charter 08 intend for it to serve as a blueprint for fundamental political change. In a preface to his translation, Link writes that the signers 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."

The charter argues that the current Chinese approach of modernization within a one-party regime has been a calamity.

The Chinese people, it says, now include "many who see clearly that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values of humankind and that democracy and constitutional government are the fundamental framework for protecting these values."

To read the complete editorial, visit The Kansas City Star.

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