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  • Documents on Democracy


After spending a total of over 16 years as a political prisoner, Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng was released on medical grounds and exiled to the United States on November 16. He gave his first press conference at the New York Public Library on November 21. Excerpts from his opening statement appear below:

I want to thank the people and governments around the world that have made enormous efforts to press the Chinese government for the release of political prisoners. I would also like to thank friends in the media who have given me this opportunity to freely express my opinions. I have waited decades for this chance to exercise my right to free speech, but the Chinese people have been waiting for centuries. Right now there are several thousand political prisoners still suffering in Chinese Communist Party jails for exercising their freedom of speech. Our conscience as human beings will not allow us to forget them, not even for a single moment.

Democracy and freedom are among the loftiest ideals of humanity, and they are the most sacred rights of mankind. Generations of martyrs sacrificed themselves in order to obtain democracy in Europe, North America, and many other places in the world. But people should not be satisfied with this. Those who already enjoy democracy, liberty, and human rights, in particular, should not allow their own personal happiness to numb them into forgetting the many others who are still struggling against tyranny, slavery, and poverty, and all those who are suffering from unimaginable forms of oppression, exploitation, and massacres. Dictators can never be satisfied with the power they already hold; the freedoms and prosperity you have gained are not protected by walls of steel. If you look aside when gangsters abuse your neighbors, then your own home will no longer be safe. Only when people join together to defeat all such gangsters will everyone be safe and free. [End Page 183]

In his essay on pp. 27–34 above, Michel Oksenberg notes that China’s leaders have increasingly begun to employ the rhetoric of democracy. Evidence of this was apparent in an address that President Jiang Zemin delivered on October 30 at a luncheon in Washington, D.C., hosted by the America-China Society and five other organizations. An excerpt appears below:

We will further enlarge democracy, run the state according to law and turn China into a socialist country ruled by law. . . . We believe that without democracy there can be no modernization. We will ensure that our people hold democratic elections, make policy decisions democratically, carry out democratic management and supervision, and enjoy extensive rights and freedoms under the law while giving greater play to their creativity and their sense of being the masters of state affairs. We will continue to safeguard the dignity of the Constitution and other laws, further to improve the legal system, and to strengthen supervision of government organs and leading officials at all levels to ensure that all work of the country is carried out according to law. The overall goal of our political restructuring is to build socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics while upholding and improving our basic political system.

Organization of American States (OAS)

In December 1992, the OAS General Assembly approved an amendment to the OAS Charter that allowed for the suspension of member states whose democratically elected governments fall victim to coups. With action by Venezuela achieving the required ratification by two-thirds of the member states, the amendment came into force on September 25. It is excerpted below:

Article 9

A Member of the Organization whose democratically constituted government has been overthrown by force may be suspended from the exercise of the right to participate in the sessions of the General Assembly, the Meeting of Consultation, the Councils of the Organization, and the Specialized Conferences as well as in the commissions, working groups, and any other bodies established.

  1. a. The power to suspend shall be exercised only when such diplomatic initiatives undertaken by the Organization for the purpose of promoting the restoration of representative democracy in the affected Member State have been unsuccessful;

  2. b. The decision to suspend shall be adopted at a special session...

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pp. 183-186
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