The Peoples Republic of China drew plenty of international scorn for barring jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo, as well as his wife and brothers, from traveling to Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month—and rightly so. As The Washington Post reminds us, “Only once before has the peace prize been awarded without anyone to receive it—in 1936, when Adolf Hitler prevented German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky from attending.”
What’s surprising is that anyone is surprised by the Chinese government’s backwardness and thuggery. This is, after all, a regime that took 60 years to get the history of the Korean War right. After insisting that the war began when “the United States assembled a United Nations army of 15 countries and defiantly marched across the border and invaded North Korea,” the Chinese government conceded only this year that “On June 25, 1950, the North Korean army marched over the 38th parallel and started the attack.”
Moreover, this is a regime that jails its own citizens for daring to speak the truth. That’s why Liu Xiaobo is under arrest. That’s why he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. And that’s why the bullies who run Beijing have detained his family.
Liu Xiaobo was one of hundreds of courageous Chinese citizens to draft and sign a declaration of freedom for their country. Dubbed “Charter 08”—a reference to Charter 77, a similar document that freedom-minded Czechoslovakians released in 1977 to challenge their communist rulers—the Chinese document criticizes the PRC for its “authoritarian power…endemic official corruption…crony capitalism [and] growing inequality between the wealthy and the poor” and challenges the people and their government to work together to transform China into a democracy.
Charter 08 calls for democratic control over the government and civilian control over the military, an end to indoctrination in schools, protection of taxpayer rights, peaceful reunification with Taiwan, and release of political prisoners. The charter demands respect for human rights and, in an echo of the U.S. Constitution, declares, “Human rights are not bestowed by a state.” It envisions a republican, democratic government for China, noting that “Political power begins with the people and the legitimacy of a regime derives from the people.” It recognizes the importance of a constitution and the rule of law for “limiting and defining the scope of legitimate government power and providing the administrative apparatus necessary to serve these ends.” And it concludes, “Without freedom China will always remain far from civilized ideals.”
In short, it’s no surprise that Beijing is threatened by Liu Xiaobo.
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