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《零八憲章

2008年12月10日公佈 http://www.2008xianzhang.info

一、前言

今年是中國立憲百年,《世界人權宣言》公佈60週年,“民主牆”誕生30週年,中國政府簽署《公民權利和政治權利國際公約》10週年。在經歷了長期的人權災難和艱難曲折的抗爭歷程之後,覺醒的中國公民日漸清楚地認識到,自由、平等、人權是人類共同的普世價值;民主、共和、憲政是現代政治的基本製度架構。抽離了這些普世價值和基本政制架構的“現代化”,是剝奪人的權利、腐蝕人性、摧毀人的尊嚴的災難過程。 21世紀的中國將走向何方,是繼續這種威權統治下的“現代化”,還是認同普世價值、融入主流文明、建立民主政體?這是一個不容迴避的抉擇。

19 世紀中期的歷史巨變,暴露了中國傳統專制制度的腐朽,揭開了中華大地上“數千年未有之大變局”的序幕。洋務運動追求器物層面的進良,甲午戰敗再次暴露了體制的過時;戊戌變法觸及到製度層面的革新,終因頑固派的殘酷鎮壓而歸於失敗;辛亥革命在表面上埋葬了延續2000多年的皇權制度,建立了亞洲第一個共和國。囿於當時內憂外患的特定歷史條件,共和政體只是曇花一現,專制主義旋即捲土重來。器物模仿和製度更新的失敗,推動國人深入到對文化病根的反思,遂有以 “科學與民主”為旗幟的“五四”新文化運動,因內戰頻仍和外敵入侵,中國政治民主化歷程被迫中斷。抗日戰爭勝利後的中國再次開啟了憲政歷程,然而國共內戰的結果使中國陷入了現代極權主義的深淵。 1949年建立的“新中國”,名義上是“人民共和國”,實質上是“黨天下”。執政黨壟斷了所有政治、經濟和社會資源,製造了反右、大躍進、文革、六四、打壓民間宗教活動與維權運動等一系列人權災難,致使數千萬人失去生命,國民和國家都付出了極為慘重的代價。

二十世紀後期的“改革開放 ”,使中國擺脫了毛澤東時代的普遍貧困和絕對極權,民間財富和民眾生活水平有了大幅度提高,個人的經濟自由和社會權利得到部分恢復,公民社會開始生長,民間對人權和政治自由的呼聲日益高漲。執政者也在進行走向市場化和私有化的經濟改革的同時,開始了從拒絕人權到逐漸承認人權的轉變。中國政府於1997年、 1998年分別簽署了兩個重要的國際人權公約,全國人大於2004年通過修憲把“尊重和保障人權”寫進憲法,今年又承諾制訂和推行《國家人權行動計劃》。但是,這些政治進步迄今為止大多停留在紙面上;有法律而無法治,有憲法而無憲政,仍然是有目共睹的政治現實。執政集團繼續堅持維繫威權統治,排拒政治變革,由此導致官場腐敗,法治難立,人權不彰,道德淪喪,社會兩極分化,經濟畸形發展,自然環境和人文環境遭到雙重破壞,公民的自由、財產和追求幸福的權利得不到製度化的保障,各種社會矛盾不斷積累,不滿情緒持續高漲,特別是官民對立激化和群體事件激增,正在顯示著災難性的失控趨勢,現行體制的落伍已經到了非改不可的地步。

二、我們的基本理念

當此決定中國未來命運的歷史關頭,有必要反思百年來的現代化歷程,重申如下基本理念:

自由:自由是普世價值的核心之所在。言論、出版、信仰、集會、結社、遷徙、罷工和遊行示威等權利都是自由的具體體現。自由不昌,則無現代文明可言。

人權:人權不是國家的賜予,而是每個人與生俱來就享有的權利。保障人權,既是政府的首要目標和公共權力合法性的基礎,也是“以人為本”的內在要求。中國的歷次政治災難都與執政當局對人權的無視密切相關。人是國家的主體,國家服務於人民,政府為人民而存在。

平等:每一個個體的人,不論社會地位、職業、性別、經濟狀況、種族、膚色、宗教或政治信仰,其人格、尊嚴、自由都是平等的。必須落實法律面前人人平等的原則,落實公民的社會、經濟、文化、政治權利平等的原則。

共和:共和就是“大家共治,和平共生”,就是分權制衡與利益平衡,就是多種利益成分、不同社會集團、多元文化與信仰追求的群體,在平等參與、公平競爭、共同議政的基礎上,以和平的方式處理公共事務。

民主:最基本的涵義是主權在民和民選政府。民主具有如下基本特點:(1)政權的合法性來自人民,政治權力來源於人民;(2)政治統治經過人民選擇,(3)公民享有真正的選舉權,各級政府的主要政務官員必須通過定期的競選產生。(4)尊重多數人的決定,同時保護少數人的基本人權。一句話,民主使政府成為"民有,民治,民享"的現代公器。

憲政:憲政是通過法律規定和法治來保障憲法確定的公民基本自由和權利的原則,限制並劃定政府權力和行為的邊界,並提供相應的製度設施。

在中國,帝國皇權的時代早已一去不復返了;在世界範圍內,威權體制也日近黃昏;公民應該成為真正的國家主人。祛除依賴“明君”、“清官”的臣民意識,張揚權利為本、參與為責的公民意識,實踐自由,躬行民主,尊奉法治,才是中國的根本出路。

三、我們的基本主張

藉此,我們本著負責任與建設性的公民精神對國家政制、公民權利與社會發展諸方面提出如下具體主張:

1、修改憲法:根據前述價值理念修改憲法,刪除現行憲法中不符合主權在民原則的條文,使憲法真正成為人權的保證書和公共權力的許可狀,成為任何個人、團體和黨派不得違反的可以實施的最高法律,為中國民主化奠定法權基礎。

2、分權制衡:構建分權制衡的現代政府,保證立法、司法、行政三權分立。確立法定行政和責任政府的原則,防止行政權力過分擴張;政府應對納稅人負責;在中央和地方之間建立分權與製衡制度,中央權力須由憲法明確界定授權,地方實行充分自治。

3、立法民主:各級立法機構由直選產生,立法秉持公平正義原則,實行立法民主。

4、司法獨立:司法應超越黨派、不受任何干預,實行司法獨立,保障司法公正;設立憲法法院,建立違憲審查制度,維護憲法權威。儘早撤銷嚴重危害國家法治的各級黨的政法委員會,避免公器私用。

5、公器公用:實現軍隊國家化,軍人應效忠於憲法,效忠於國家,政黨組織應從軍隊中退出,提高軍隊職業化水平。包括警察在內的所有公務員應保持政治中立。消除公務員錄用的黨派歧視,應不分黨派平等錄用。

6、人權保障:切實保障人權,維護人的尊嚴。設立對最高民意機關負責的人權委員會,防止政府濫用公權侵犯人權,尤其要保障公民的人身自由,任何人不受非法逮捕、拘禁、傳訊、審問、處罰,廢除勞動教養制度。

7、公職選舉:全面推行民主選舉制度,落實一人一票的平等選舉權。各級行政首長的直接選舉應制度化地逐步推行。定期自由競爭選舉和公民參選法定公共職務是不可剝奪的基本人權。

8、城鄉平等:廢除現行的城鄉二元戶籍制度,落實公民一律平等的憲法權利,保障公民的自由遷徙權。

9、結社自由:保障公民的結社自由權,將現行的社團登記審批制改為備案製。開放黨禁,以憲法和法律規範政黨行為,取消一黨壟斷執政特權,確立政黨活動自由和公平競爭的原則,實現政黨政治正常化和法制化。

10、集會自由:和平集會、遊行、示威和表達自由,是憲法規定的公民基本自由,不應受到執政黨和政府的非法干預與違憲限制。

11、言論自由:落實言論自由、出版自由和學術自由,保障公民的知情權和監督權。制訂《新聞法》和《出版法》,開放報禁,廢除現行《刑法》中的"煽動顛覆國家政權罪"條款,杜絕以言治罪。

12、宗教自由:保障宗教自由與信仰自由,實行政教分離,宗教信仰活動不受政府乾預。審查並撤銷限製或剝奪公民宗教自由的行政法規、行政規章和地方性法規;禁止以行政立法管理宗教活動。廢除宗教團體(包括宗教活動場所)必經登記始獲合法地位的事先許可製度,代之以無須任何審查的備案製。

13、公民教育:取消服務於一黨統治、帶有濃厚意識形態色彩的政治教育與政治考試,推廣以普世價值和公民權利為本的公民教育,確立公民意識,倡導服務社會的公民美德。

14、財產保護:確立和保護私有財產權利,實行自由、開放的市場經濟制度,保障創業自由,消除行政壟斷;設立對最高民意機關負責的國有資產管理委員會,合法有序地展開產權改革,明晰產權歸屬和責任者;開展新土地運動,推進土地私有化,切實保障公民尤其是農民的土地所有權。

15、財稅改革:確立民主財政和保障納稅人的權利。建立權責明確的公共財政制度構架和運行機制,建立各級政府合理有效的財政分權體系;對賦稅制度進行重大改革,以降低稅率、簡化稅制、公平稅負。非經社會公共選擇過程,民意機關決議,行政部門不得隨意加稅、開徵新稅。通過產權改革,引進多元市場主體和競爭機制,降低金融准入門檻,為發展民間金融創造條件,使金融體系充分發揮活力。

16、社會保障:建立覆蓋全體國民的社會保障體制,使國民在教育、醫療、養老和就業等方面得到最基本的保障。

17、環境保護:保護生態環境,提倡可持續發展,為子孫後代和全人類負責;明確落實國家和各級官員必須為此承擔的相應責任;發揮民間組織在環境保護中的參與和監督作用。

18、聯邦共和:以平等、公正的態度參與維持地區和平與發展,塑造一個負責任的大國形象。維護香港、澳門的自由制度。在自由民主的前提下,通過平等談判與合作互動的方式尋求海峽兩岸和解方案。以大智慧探索各民族共同繁榮的可能途徑和製度設計,在民主憲政的架構下建立中華聯邦共和國。

19、轉型正義:為歷次政治運動中遭受政治迫害的人士及其家屬,恢復名譽,給予國家賠償;釋放所有政治犯和良心犯,釋放所有因信仰而獲罪的人員;成立真相調查委員會,查清歷史事件的真相,釐清責任,伸張正義;在此基礎上尋求社會和解。

四、結語

中國作為世界大國,作為聯合國安理會五個常任理事國之一和人權理事會的成員,理應為人類和平事業與人權進步做出自身的貢獻。但令人遺憾的是,在當今世界的所有大國里,唯獨中國還處在威權主義政治生態中,並由此造成連綿不斷的人權災難和社會危機,束縛了中華民族的自身發展,制約了人類文明的進步——這種局面必須改變!政治民主化變革不能再拖延下去。

為此,我們本著勇於踐行的公民精神,公佈《零八憲章》。我們希望所有具有同樣危機感、責任感和使命感的中國公民,不分朝野,不論身份,求同存異,積極參與到公民運動中來,共同推動中國社會的偉大變革,以期早日建成一個自由、民主、憲政的國家,實現國人百餘年來鍥而不捨的追求與夢想。


Charter 08

《零八宪章

一、前言

今年是中国立宪百年,《世界人权宣言》公布60周年,“民主墙”诞生30周年,中国政府签署《公民权利和政治权利国际公约》10周年。在经历了长期的人权灾难和艰难曲折的抗争历程之后,觉醒的中国公民日渐清楚地认识到,自由、平等、人权是人类共同的普世价值;民主、共和、宪政是现代政治的基本制度架构。抽离了这些普世价值和基本政制架构的“现代化”,是剥夺人的权利、腐蚀人性、摧毁人的尊严的灾难过程。21世纪的中国将走向何方,是继续这种威权统治下的“现代化”,还是认同普世价值、融入主流文明、建立民主政体?这是一个不容回避的抉择。

19世纪中期的历史巨变,暴露了中国传统专制制度的腐朽,揭开了中华大地上“数千年未有之大变局”的序幕。洋务运动追求器物层面的进良,甲午战败再次暴露了体制的过时;戊戌变法触及到制度层面的革新,终因顽固派的残酷镇压而归于失败;辛亥革命在表面上埋葬了延续2000多年的皇权制度,建立了亚洲第一个共和国。囿于当时内忧外患的特定历史条件,共和政体只是昙花一现,专制主义旋即卷土重来。器物模仿和制度更新的失败,推动国人深入到对文化病根的反思,遂有以“科学与民主”为旗帜的“五四”新文化运动,因内战频仍和外敌入侵,中国政治民主化历程被迫中断。抗日战争胜利后的中国再次开启了宪政历程,然而国共内战的结果使中国陷入了现代极权主义的深渊。1949年建立的“新中国”,名义上是“人民共和国”,实质上是“党天下”。执政党垄断了所有政治、经济和社会资源,制造了反右、大跃进、文革、六四、打压民间宗教活动与维权运动等一系列人权灾难,致使数千万人失去生命,国民和国家都付出了极为惨重的代价。

二十世纪后期的“改革开放”,使中国摆脱了毛泽东时代的普遍贫困和绝对极权,民间财富和民众生活水平有了大幅度提高,个人的经济自由和社会权利得到部分恢复,公民社会开始生长,民间对人权和政治自由的呼声日益高涨。执政者也在进行走向市场化和私有化的经济改革的同时,开始了从拒绝人权到逐渐承认人权的转变。中国政府于1997年、1998年分别签署了两个重要的国际人权公约,全国人大于2004年通过修宪把“尊重和保障人权”写进宪法,今年又承诺制订和推行《国家人权行动计划》。但是,这些政治进步迄今为止大多停留在纸面上;有法律而无法治,有宪法而无宪政,仍然是有目共睹的政治现实。执政集团继续坚持维系威权统治,排拒政治变革,由此导致官场腐败,法治难立,人权不彰,道德沦丧,社会两极分化,经济畸形发展,自然环境和人文环境遭到双重破坏,公民的自由、财产和追求幸福的权利得不到制度化的保障,各种社会矛盾不断积累,不满情绪持续高涨,特别是官民对立激化和群体事件激增,正在显示着灾难性的失控趋势,现行体制的落伍已经到了非改不可的地步。

二、我们的基本理念

当此决定中国未来命运的历史关头,有必要反思百年来的现代化历程,重申如下基本理念:

自由:自由是普世价值的核心之所在。言论、出版、信仰、集会、结社、迁徙、罢工和游行示威等权利都是自由的具体体现。自由不昌,则无现代文明可言。

人权:人权不是国家的赐予,而是每个人与生俱来就享有的权利。保障人权,既是政府的首要目标和公共权力合法性的基础,也是“以人为本”的内在要求。中国的历次政治灾难都与执政当局对人权的无视密切相关。人是国家的主体,国家服务于人民,政府为人民而存在。

平等:每一个个体的人,不论社会地位、职业、性别、经济状况、种族、肤色、宗教或政治信仰,其人格、尊严、自由都是平等的。必须落实法律面前人人平等的原则,落实公民的社会、经济、文化、政治权利平等的原则。

共和:共和就是“大家共治,和平共生”,就是分权制衡与利益平衡,就是多种利益成分、不同社会集团、多元文化与信仰追求的群体,在平等参与、公平竞争、共同议政的基础上,以和平的方式处理公共事务。

民主:最基本的涵义是主权在民和民选政府。民主具有如下基本特点:(1)政权的合法性来自人民,政治权力来源于人民;(2)政治统治经过人民选择,(3)公民享有真正的选举权,各级政府的主要政务官员必须通过定期的竞选产生。(4)尊重多数人的决定,同时保护少数人的基本人权。一句话,民主使政府成为“民有,民治,民享”的现代公器。

宪政:宪政是通过法律规定和法治来保障宪法确定的公民基本自由和权利的原则,限制并划定政府权力和行为的边界,并提供相应的制度设施。

在中国,帝国皇权的时代早已一去不复返了;在世界范围内,威权体制也日近黄昏;公民应该成为真正的国家主人。祛除依赖“明君”、“清官”的臣民意识,张扬权利为本、参与为责的公民意识,实践自由,躬行民主,尊奉法治,才是中国的根本出路。

三、我们的基本主张

藉此,我们本着负责任与建设性的公民精神对国家政制、公民权利与社会发展诸方面提出如下具体主张:

1、修改宪法:根据前述价值理念修改宪法,删除现行宪法中不符合主权在民原则的条文,使宪法真正成为人权的保证书和公共权力的许可状,成为任何个人、团体和党派不得违反的可以实施的最高法律,为中国民主化奠定法权基础。

2、分权制衡:构建分权制衡的现代政府,保证立法、司法、行政三权分立。确立法定行政和责任政府的原则,防止行政权力过分扩张;政府应对纳税人负责;在中央和地方之间建立分权与制衡制度,中央权力须由宪法明确界定授权,地方实行充分自治。

3、立法民主:各级立法机构由直选产生,立法秉持公平正义原则,实行立法民主。

4、司法独立:司法应超越党派、不受任何干预,实行司法独立,保障司法公正;设立宪法法院,建立违宪审查制度,维护宪法权威。尽早撤销严重危害国家法治的各级党的政法委员会,避免公器私用。

5、公器公用:实现军队国家化,军人应效忠于宪法,效忠于国家,政党组织应从军队中退出,提高军队职业化水平。包括警察在内的所有公务员应保持政治中立。消除公务员录用的党派歧视,应不分党派平等录用。

6、人权保障:切实保障人权,维护人的尊严。设立对最高民意机关负责的人权委员会,防止政府滥用公权侵犯人权,尤其要保障公民的人身自由,任何人不受非法逮捕、拘禁、传讯、审问、处罚,废除劳动教养制度。

7、公职选举:全面推行民主选举制度,落实一人一票的平等选举权。各级行政首长的直接选举应制度化地逐步推行。定期自由竞争选举和公民参选法定公共职务是不可剥夺的基本人权。

8、城乡平等:废除现行的城乡二元户籍制度,落实公民一律平等的宪法权利,保障公民的自由迁徙权。

9、结社自由:保障公民的结社自由权,将现行的社团登记审批制改为备案制。开放党禁,以宪法和法律规范政党行为,取消一党垄断执政特权,确立政党活动自由和公平竞争的原则,实现政党政治正常化和法制化。

10、集会自由:和平集会、游行、示威和表达自由,是宪法规定的公民基本自由,不应受到执政党和政府的非法干预与违宪限制。

11、言论自由:落实言论自由、出版自由和学术自由,保障公民的知情权和监督权。制订《新闻法》和《出版法》,开放报禁,废除现行《刑法》中的“煽动颠覆国家政权罪”条款,杜绝以言治罪。

12、宗教自由:保障宗教自由与信仰自由,实行政教分离,宗教信仰活动不受政府干预。审查并撤销限制或剥夺公民宗教自由的行政法规、行政规章和地方性法规;禁止以行政立法管理宗教活动。废除宗教团体(包括宗教活动场所)必经登记始获合法地位的事先许可制度,代之以无须任何审查的备案制。

13、公民教育:取消服务于一党统治、带有浓厚意识形态色彩的政治教育与政治考试,推广以普世价值和公民权利为本的公民教育,确立公民意识,倡导服务社会的公民美德。

14、财产保护:确立和保护私有财产权利,实行自由、开放的市场经济制度,保障创业自由,消除行政垄断;设立对最高民意机关负责的国有资产管理委员会,合法有序地展开产权改革,明晰产权归属和责任者;开展新土地运动,推进土地私有化,切实保障公民尤其是农民的土地所有权。

15、财税改革:确立民主财政和保障纳税人的权利。建立权责明确的公共财政制度构架和运行机制,建立各级政府合理有效的财政分权体系;对赋税制度进行重大改革,以降低税率、简化税制、公平税负。非经社会公共选择过程,民意机关决议,行政部门不得随意加税、开征新税。通过产权改革,引进多元市场主体和竞争机制,降低金融准入门槛,为发展民间金融创造条件,使金融体系充分发挥活力。

16、社会保障:建立覆盖全体国民的社会保障体制,使国民在教育、医疗、养老和就业等方面得到最基本的保障。

17、环境保护:保护生态环境,提倡可持续发展,为子孙后代和全人类负责;明确落实国家和各级官员必须为此承担的相应责任;发挥民间组织在环境保护中的参与和监督作用。

18、联邦共和:以平等、公正的态度参与维持地区和平与发展,塑造一个负责任的大国形象。维护香港、澳门的自由制度。在自由民主的前提下,通过平等谈判与合作互动的方式寻求海峡两岸和解方案。以大智慧探索各民族共同繁荣的可能途径和制度设计,在民主宪政的架构下建立中华联邦共和国。

19、转型正义:为历次政治运动中遭受政治迫害的人士及其家属,恢复名誉,给予国家赔偿;释放所有政治犯和良心犯,释放所有因信仰而获罪的人员;成立真相调查委员会,查清历史事件的真相,厘清责任,伸张正义;在此基础上寻求社会和解。

四、结语

中国作为世界大国,作为联合国安理会五个常任理事国之一和人权理事会的成员,理应为人类和平事业与人权进步做出自身的贡献。但令人遗憾的是,在当今世界的所有大国里,唯独中国还处在威权主义政治生态中,并由此造成连绵不断的人权灾难和社会危机,束缚了中华民族的自身发展,制约了人类文明的进步——这种局面必须改变!政治民主化变革不能再拖延下去。

为此,我们本着勇于践行的公民精神,公布《零八宪章》。我们希望所有具有同样危机感、责任感和使命感的中国公民,不分朝野,不论身份,求同存异,积极参与到公民运动中来,共同推动中国社会的伟大变革,以期早日建成一个自由、民主、宪政的国家,实现国人百余年来锲而不舍的追求与梦想。


Charter 08

Charter 08

Translated from the Chinese by Perry Link  http://www.charter08.com/index.php

I. Foreword

A hundred years have passed since the writing of China’s first constitution. 2008 also marks the sixtieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the thirtieth anniversary of the appearance of Democracy Wall in Beijing, and the tenth of China’s signing of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We are approaching the twentieth anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre of pro-democracy student protesters. The Chinese people, who have endured human rights disasters and uncountable struggles across these same years, now include many who see clearly that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values of humankind and that democracy and constitutional government are the fundamental framework for protecting these values.

By departing from these values, the Chinese government’s approach to “modernization" has proven disastrous. It has stripped people of their rights, destroyed their dignity, and corrupted normal human intercourse. So we ask: Where is China headed in the twenty-first century? Will it continue with “modernization" under authoritarian rule, or will it embrace universal human values, join the mainstream of civilized nations, and build a democratic system? There can be no avoiding these questions.

The shock of the Western impact upon China in the nineteenth century laid bare a decadent authoritarian system and marked the beginning of what is often called “the greatest changes in thousands of years" for China. A “self-strengthening movement" followed, but this aimed simply at appropriating the technology to build gunboats and other Western material objects. China’s humiliating naval defeat at the hands of Japan in 1895 only confirmed the obsolescence of China’s system of government. The first attempts at modern political change came with the ill-fated summer of reforms in 1898, but these were cruelly crushed by ultraconservatives at China’s imperial court. With the revolution of 1911, which inaugurated Asia’s first republic, the authoritarian imperial system that had lasted for centuries was finally supposed to have been laid to rest. But social conflict inside our country and external pressures were to prevent it; China fell into a patchwork of warlord fiefdoms and the new republic became a fleeting dream.

The failure of both “self-strengthening" and political renovation caused many of our forebears to reflect deeply on whether a “cultural illness" was afflicting our country. This mood gave rise, during the May Fourth Movement of the late 1910s, to the championing of “science and democracy." Yet that effort, too, foundered as warlord chaos persisted and the Japanese invasion [beginning in Manchuria in 1931] brought national crisis.

Victory over Japan in 1945 offered one more chance for China to move toward modern government, but the Communist defeat of the Nationalists in the civil war thrust the nation into the abyss of totalitarianism. The “new China" that emerged in 1949 proclaimed that “the people are sovereign" but in fact set up a system in which “the Party is all-powerful." The Communist Party of China seized control of all organs of the state and all political, economic, and social resources, and, using these, has produced a long trail of human rights disasters, including, among many others, the Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957), the Great Leap Forward (1958–1960), the Cultural Revolution (1966–1969), the June Fourth (Tiananmen Square) Massacre (1989), and the current repression of all unauthorized religions and the suppression of the weiquan rights movement [a movement that aims to defend citizens’ rights promulgated in the Chinese Constitution and to fight for human rights recognized by international conventions that the Chinese government has signed]. During all this, the Chinese people have paid a gargantuan price. Tens of millions have lost their lives, and several generations have seen their freedom, their happiness, and their human dignity cruelly trampled.

During the last two decades of the twentieth century the government policy of “Reform and Opening" gave the Chinese people relief from the pervasive poverty and totalitarianism of the Mao Zedong era and brought substantial increases in the wealth and living standards of many Chinese as well as a partial restoration of economic freedom and economic rights. Civil society began to grow, and popular calls for more rights and more political freedom have grown apace. As the ruling elite itself moved toward private ownership and the market economy, it began to shift from an outright rejection of “rights" to a partial acknowledgment of them.

In 1998 the Chinese government signed two important international human rights conventions; in 2004 it amended its constitution to include the phrase “respect and protect human rights"; and this year, 2008, it has promised to promote a “national human rights action plan." Unfortunately most of this political progress has extended no further than the paper on which it is written. The political reality, which is plain for anyone to see, is that China has many laws but no rule of law; it has a constitution but no constitutional government. The ruling elite continues to cling to its authoritarian power and fights off any move toward political change.

The stultifying results are endemic official corruption, an undermining of the rule of law, weak human rights, decay in public ethics, crony capitalism, growing inequality between the wealthy and the poor, pillage of the natural environment as well as of the human and historical environments, and the exacerbation of a long list of social conflicts, especially, in recent times, a sharpening animosity between officials and ordinary people.

As these conflicts and crises grow ever more intense, and as the ruling elite continues with impunity to crush and to strip away the rights of citizens to freedom, to property, and to the pursuit of happiness, we see the powerless in our society—the vulnerable groups, the people who have been suppressed and monitored, who have suffered cruelty and even torture, and who have had no adequate avenues for their protests, no courts to hear their pleas—becoming more militant and raising the possibility of a violent conflict of disastrous proportions. The decline of the current system has reached the point where change is no longer optional.

II. Our Fundamental Principles

This is a historic moment for China, and our future hangs in the balance. In reviewing the political modernization process of the past hundred years or more, we reiterate and endorse basic universal values as follows:

Freedom. Freedom is at the core of universal human values. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom in where to live, and the freedoms to strike, to demonstrate, and to protest, among others, are the forms that freedom takes. Without freedom, China will always remain far from civilized ideals.

Human rights. Human rights are not bestowed by a state. Every person is born with inherent rights to dignity and freedom. The government exists for the protection of the human rights of its citizens. The exercise of state power must be authorized by the people. The succession of political disasters in China’s recent history is a direct consequence of the ruling regime’s disregard for human rights.

Equality. The integrity, dignity, and freedom of every person—regardless of social station, occupation, sex, economic condition, ethnicity, skin color, religion, or political belief—are the same as those of any other. Principles of equality before the law and equality of social, economic, cultural, civil, and political rights must be upheld.

Republicanism. Republicanism, which holds that power should be balanced among different branches of government and competing interests should be served, resembles the traditional Chinese political ideal of “fairness in all under heaven." It allows different interest groups and social assemblies, and people with a variety of cultures and beliefs, to exercise democratic self-government and to deliberate in order to reach peaceful resolution of public questions on a basis of equal access to government and free and fair competition.

Democracy. The most fundamental principles of democracy are that the people are sovereign and the people select their government. Democracy has these characteristics: (1) Political power begins with the people and the legitimacy of a regime derives from the people. (2) Political power is exercised through choices that the people make. (3) The holders of major official posts in government at all levels are determined through periodic competitive elections. (4) While honoring the will of the majority, the fundamental dignity, freedom, and human rights of minorities are protected. In short, democracy is a modern means for achieving government truly “of the people, by the people, and for the people."

Constitutional rule. Constitutional rule is rule through a legal system and legal regulations to implement principles that are spelled out in a constitution. It means protecting the freedom and the rights of citizens, limiting and defining the scope of legitimate government power, and providing the administrative apparatus necessary to serve these ends.

III. What We Advocate

Authoritarianism is in general decline throughout the world; in China, too, the era of emperors and overlords is on the way out. The time is arriving everywhere for citizens to be masters of states. For China the path that leads out of our current predicament is to divest ourselves of the authoritarian notion of reliance on an “enlightened overlord" or an “honest official" and to turn instead toward a system of liberties, democracy, and the rule of law, and toward fostering the consciousness of modern citizens who see rights as fundamental and participation as a duty. Accordingly, and in a spirit of this duty as responsible and constructive citizens, we offer the following recommendations on national governance, citizens’ rights, and social development:

1. A New Constitution. We should recast our present constitution, rescinding its provisions that contradict the principle that sovereignty resides with the people and turning it into a document that genuinely guarantees human rights, authorizes the exercise of public power, and serves as the legal underpinning of China’s democratization. The constitution must be the highest law in the land, beyond violation by any individual, group, or political party.

2. Separation of powers. We should construct a modern government in which the separation of legislative, judicial, and executive power is guaranteed. We need an Administrative Law that defines the scope of government responsibility and prevents abuse of administrative power. Government should be responsible to taxpayers. Division of power between provincial governments and the central government should adhere to the principle that central powers are only those specifically granted by the constitution and all other powers belong to the local governments.

3. Legislative democracy. Members of legislative bodies at all levels should be chosen by direct election, and legislative democracy should observe just and impartial principles.

4. An Independent Judiciary. The rule of law must be above the interests of any particular political party and judges must be independent. We need to establish a constitutional supreme court and institute procedures for constitutional review. As soon as possible, we should abolish all of the Committees on Political and Legal Affairs that now allow Communist Party officials at every level to decide politically-sensitive cases in advance and out of court. We should strictly forbid the use of public offices for private purposes.

5. Public Control of Public Servants. The military should be made answerable to the national government, not to a political party, and should be made more professional. Military personnel should swear allegiance to the constitution and remain nonpartisan. Political party organizations shall be prohibited in the military. All public officials including police should serve as nonpartisans, and the current practice of favoring one political party in the hiring of public servants must end.

6. Guarantee of Human Rights. There shall be strict guarantees of human rights and respect for human dignity. There should be a Human Rights Committee, responsible to the highest legislative body, that will prevent the government from abusing public power in violation of human rights. A democratic and constitutional China especially must guarantee the personal freedom of citizens. No one shall suffer illegal arrest, detention, arraignment, interrogation, or punishment. The system of “Reeducation through Labor" must be abolished.

7. Election of Public Officials. There shall be a comprehensive system of democratic elections based on “one person, one vote." The direct election of administrative heads at the levels of county, city, province, and nation should be systematically implemented. The rights to hold periodic free elections and to participate in them as a citizen are inalienable.

8. Rural–Urban Equality. The two-tier household registry system must be abolished. This system favors urban residents and harms rural residents. We should establish instead a system that gives every citizen the same constitutional rights and the same freedom to choose where to live.

9. Freedom to Form Groups. The right of citizens to form groups must be guaranteed. The current system for registering nongovernment groups, which requires a group to be “approved," should be replaced by a system in which a group simply registers itself. The formation of political parties should be governed by the constitution and the laws, which means that we must abolish the special privilege of one party to monopolize power and must guarantee principles of free and fair competition among political parties.

10. Freedom to Assemble. The constitution provides that peaceful assembly, demonstration, protest, and freedom of expression are fundamental rights of a citizen. The ruling party and the government must not be permitted to subject these to illegal interference or unconstitutional obstruction.

11. Freedom of Expression. We should make freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and academic freedom universal, thereby guaranteeing that citizens can be informed and can exercise their right of political supervision. These freedoms should be upheld by a Press Law that abolishes political restrictions on the press. The provision in the current Criminal Law that refers to “the crime of incitement to subvert state power" must be abolished. We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes.

12. Freedom of Religion. We must guarantee freedom of religion and belief and institute a separation of religion and state. There must be no governmental interference in peaceful religious activities. We should abolish any laws, regulations, or local rules that limit or suppress the religious freedom of citizens. We should abolish the current system that requires religious groups (and their places of worship) to get official approval in advance and substitute for it a system in which registry is optional and, for those who choose to register, automatic.

13. Civic Education. In our schools we should abolish political curriculums and examinations that are designed to indoctrinate students in state ideology and to instill support for the rule of one party. We should replace them with civic education that advances universal values and citizens’ rights, fosters civic consciousness, and promotes civic virtues that serve society.

14. Protection of Private Property. We should establish and protect the right to private property and promote an economic system of free and fair markets. We should do away with government monopolies in commerce and industry and guarantee the freedom to start new enterprises. We should establish a Committee on State-Owned Property, reporting to the national legislature, that will monitor the transfer of state-owned enterprises to private ownership in a fair, competitive, and orderly manner. We should institute a land reform that promotes private ownership of land, guarantees the right to buy and sell land, and allows the true value of private property to be adequately reflected in the market.

15. Financial and Tax Reform. We should establish a democratically regulated and accountable system of public finance that ensures the protection of taxpayer rights and that operates through legal procedures. We need a system by which public revenues that belong to a certain level of government—central, provincial, county or local—are controlled at that level. We need major tax reform that will abolish any unfair taxes, simplify the tax system, and spread the tax burden fairly. Government officials should not be able to raise taxes, or institute new ones, without public deliberation and the approval of a democratic assembly. We should reform the ownership system in order to encourage competition among a wider variety of market participants.

16. Social Security. We should establish a fair and adequate social security system that covers all citizens and ensures basic access to education, health care, retirement security, and employment.

17. Protection of the Environment. We need to protect the natural environment and to promote development in a way that is sustainable and responsible to our descendents and to the rest of humanity. This means insisting that the state and its officials at all levels not only do what they must do to achieve these goals, but also accept the supervision and participation of non-governmental organizations.

18. A Federated Republic. A democratic China should seek to act as a responsible major power contributing toward peace and development in the Asian Pacific region by approaching others in a spirit of equality and fairness. In Hong Kong and Macao, we should support the freedoms that already exist. With respect to Taiwan, we should declare our commitment to the principles of freedom and democracy and then, negotiating as equals, and ready to compromise, seek a formula for peaceful unification. We should approach disputes in the national-minority areas of China with an open mind, seeking ways to find a workable framework within which all ethnic and religious groups can flourish. We should aim ultimately at a federation of democratic communities of China.

19. Truth in Reconciliation. We should restore the reputations of all people, including their family members, who suffered political stigma in the political campaigns of the past or who have been labeled as criminals because of their thought, speech, or faith. The state should pay reparations to these people. All political prisoners and prisoners of conscience must be released. There should be a Truth Investigation Commission charged with finding the facts about past injustices and atrocities, determining responsibility for them, upholding justice, and, on these bases, seeking social reconciliation.

China, as a major nation 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, should be contributing to peace for humankind and progress toward human rights. Unfortunately, we stand today as the only country among the major nations that remains mired in authoritarian politics. Our political system continues to produce human rights disasters and social crises, thereby not only constricting China’s own development but also limiting the progress of all of human civilization. This must change, truly it must. The democratization of Chinese politics can be put off no longer.

Accordingly, we dare to put civic spirit into practice by announcing Charter 08. We hope that our fellow citizens who feel a similar sense of crisis, responsibility, and mission, whether they are inside the government or not, and regardless of their social status, will set aside small differences to embrace the broad goals of this citizens’ movement. Together we can work for major changes in Chinese society and for the rapid establishment of a free, democratic, and constitutional country. We can bring to reality the goals and ideals that our people have incessantly been seeking for more than a hundred years, and can bring a brilliant new chapter to Chinese civilization.