The statement below is from Human Rights in China. Not a good sign, though not exactly surprising either. The questions is, as HRIC notes, whether this is the start of a more general battening down of the hatches ahead of the economic storm that is brewing. More on that in the next few days.
For Immediate Release
Date: December 9, 2008
To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a diverse group of 303 Chinese writers, intellectuals, lawyers, journalists, retired Party officials, workers, peasants, and businessmen have issued an open letter, “08 Charter,” calling for legal reforms, democracy and protection of human rights in China.
On December 8, 2008, at 11:00 p.m., Beijing public security officers, armed with a criminal detention notice, a subpoena, and search warrants, took away two of the individuals who signed the Charter, Liu Xiaobo and Zhang Zhuhua, ransacked their homes, and confiscated computers, books, and personal belongings. Zhang was released after 12 hours of interrogation. According to Zhang, Liu is being criminally detained on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power.”
The Charter sets forth 19 specific recommendations, including: constitutional reform; separation of administrative, legislative and judicial powers; freedom of association, expression, and religion; and citizen education that encompasses universal values and civil rights. The recommendations address current reform debates, and promote many rights already recognized in Chinese law and that constitute part of China’s international human rights obligations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), signed by the Chinese government 10 years ago, still pending ratification.
By detaining these individuals on the eve of the international Human Rights Day, the Chinese government has exposed the emptiness of the rhetoric in its recently announced Human Rights Action Plan, and makes a mockery of the official slogan that people are the foundation [yi ren wei ben] of China’s development and of the official claim that “human rights work in China has already achieved historic progress.” This kind of reaction to the legitimate appeals of Chinese citizens to the government sends an unsettling message that a crackdown for next year may be already underway.
The year 2009 will mark several politically sensitive anniversaries: the 20th anniversary of the June 4, 1989 crackdown, the 50th anniversary of the exile of the Dalai Lama, and the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
For more information on Liu Xiaobo and writings by him, see:
“Rights Crackdown Intensifies a Month before the Games,” July 8, 2008