Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Crossroads for China...

While a transition to a Popperesque "Open Society" is unlikely, economic conditions have this amazing ability to cause rapid change in previously ossified political entities.

The main issue for China is one of perspective. While I typically avoid EITHER/OR dichotomies (as social issues are far more varied and complex), it would appear that China can EITHER attempt to transition, piecemeal, into a more open society and accept its place in the world as a valuable economic engine and be subject to the violent gyrations such a position entails...

OR, it can always regress and do what tradition call for: isolate itself from the world, expropriate foreign capital and wait a few hundred years to try this thing called "capitalism" again.

Call sounds for Ch1na democracy
By Kathrin H1lle in Beijing

Published: December 10 2008 02:00 | Last updated: December 10 2008 04:37

More than 300 Chinese intellectuals called yesterday for the creation of a new democracy movement in a sign of growing dissatisfaction with the Chinese Communist party's strategy of encouraging economic reform without meaningful political liberalisation.

The Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a group of lawyers largely organised through the internet, published a document named Charter 08 demanding constitutional reforms, multi-party democracy and the rule of law. The charter has the support of writers, lawyers and university professors from all over China.

Some of the signatories said they were following the spirit of the Charter 77, an appeal issued by intellectuals in Communist Czechoslovakia more than 30 years ago criticizing the government for its failure to respect human rights.

Like its Czech predecessor, Charter 08 does not call for the overthrow of the ruling Communist Party, aiming instead to encourage a broader, more open debate on human rights and democracy.

"We are not a political party and are not seeking to establish one," said Zhang Zuhua, a well known political activist who is a prominent member of Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

"We just feel that the authorities have long talked about democracy but there has been no real change, so we hope to create a broad consensus in society for the universal values of human rights and democracy which would raise the pressure on them," Mr Zhang said.

The fact that several hundred intellectuals are publicly supporting the initiative is certain to be perceived as a challenge by the Communist Party, which is scrambling to deal with a sharp economic slowdown that the leadership has warned could lead to unrest if not managed well.

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