2017: Charter 08's Qing Dynasty Precursor

China - Politik & Wirtschaft
The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus,  Volume 9 | Issue 27 | Number 2 | Jul 11, 2011
Mit freundlicher Erlaubnnis von Japan Focus

This article is reprinted in commemoration of the life of Liu Xiaobo.
Liu Xiaobo, was transfered from his jail cell in Beijing where he was serving an eleven year sentence, to a cancer hospital where he died on July 13. The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who had returned to China to join students in the Tiananmen Square demonstration of 1989, and then helped to prevent further bloodshed by leading students away from the square on June 4, was a central figure in the Charter 08 democracy movement, for which he paid with his life.


Charter 08’s Qing Dynasty Precursor
零八憲章 清朝の先駆例

Jane Leung Larson


With Commentary by Feng Chongyi

Over the gulf of one century and two revolutions, two groups of Chinese petitioners drafted remarkably similar blueprints for political reform. Both groups sought civil rights and political responsibilities for Chinese citizens and a Western-influenced form of constitutional government to replace rule by autocracy. Today, China’s autocratic government is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, and in the waning years of the Chinese empire, it was ruled by the Qing dynasty. The striking differences between these petition movements are as instructive as their similarities, reflecting not only the qualities of the movements themselves but the radically different political environments—inside and outside China—from which they emerged.

In 2008, Charter 08 declared that “freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values of humankind, and democracy and constitutional government are the fundamental framework for protecting these values.”1 Charter 08’s drafters, of whom the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo is the most prominent, describe themselves as inheriting China’s historical legacy of political reform. They called for a citizens’ movement “so that we can bring to reality the goals and ideals our people have incessantly been seeking for more than a hundred years.” They credit the 1898 Hundred Days of Reform led by the Guangxu Emperor to transform China into a constitutional monarchy with being China’s “first attempt at modern political change,” and the first sentence of their petition reads, “A hundred years have passed since the writing of China‘s first constitution.”

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