Responsibility to Humankind: Feng Chongyi reviews Charter 08

Chairman Hu Jintao meeting politicians without CCP membership ahead of Spring Festival

What are you currently reading, Mr Chairman? - Hu Jintao meets non-CCP politicians ahead of Spring Festival, CCTV xinwen lianbo, Febr 10, 2010

The concepts, standpoints and recommendations elaborated in Charter 08 represent a remarkable progress in sophistication of liberal and democratic ideas in China since the 1989 democracy movement symbolised by the hunger strike at Tiananmen Square and demonstrations on the streets of Beijing and other major cities, Feng Chongyi (冯崇义), associate professor in China Studies and deputy director of the China Research Centre at University of Technology in Sydney, writes in a review of the Charter 08 and preceding recent and more distant events that would make it part of recent Chinese history.

Part four is a short “conclusion” about China’s responsibility to humankind, appealing to all Chinese citizens to participate in the democratic movement and echoing the call in the preamble that human rights and democracy are vital for China as a major country of the world, as one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and as a member of the UN Council on Human Rights. Charter 08 categorically sets constitutional democracy as the goal for Chinese political development and peaceful reform as the means to achieve that goal.

Feng also addresses the issue of Chinese liberalism:

The second achievement is to address the issues of social justice from a liberal perspective based on an “overlapping consensus” between liberalism and social democracy. The Chinese new left has labelled Chinese liberals “neo-liberals”, resulting in grave confusion and misunderstanding. (..) Even some China scholars in the West assume as a matter of course that the Chinese new left champions the cause of social justice, which is neglected by Chinese liberals. However, in the context of the contemporary West, neo-liberals are widely regarded as a right wing political and intellectual force prioritising efficiency over equality and promoting market mechanisms at the expense of the welfare state. Contemporary Chinese liberals differ fundamentally from “neo-liberals” in the West. They understand liberalism in the classical sense as a political philosophy that considers individual liberty as the most important political goal and upholds liberal principles such as legal protection of individual rights, the rule of law and limitations on state power. They not only strive for individual freedoms and seek to replace the despotism of the Leninist party-state with liberal democracy, but many also fight in the forefront against social inequality and seek to champion the cause of the working class quest for equality and a better life.

And he provides an overview of who these Liberals, both in the sense of the Charter and others, actually are.

Feng originally published his article in January 2010, and republished it with a new introduction on October 11, following the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo.

Hat tip to Adam Cathcart.


Back in Prison – Liu Xiaobo short bio, December 25, 2009
Seminar on 6-4 Movement held in Beijing, May 24, 2009
Charter 08 and Greater China, December 13, 2008
China’s Challenge, December 11, 2008 (includes link to charter in full)

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