- Documents on Democracy
On March 11 in Prague, the People in Need foundation bestowed its annual Homo Homini Award on imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, a leading figure behind Charter 08. Presented by Václav Havel, the award was received on Liu's behalf by three other Charter 08 signatories, including Xu Youyu. Excerpts from Xu's remarks appear below:
We would like to thank the organization People in Need for giving the 2008 Homo Homini award to the signatories of Charter 08. This award is an expression of support and encouragement for all those who are being persecuted for having signed the Charter, for all people in China who strive to exercise their legal rights, and for Dr. Liu Xiaobo, who was arrested and is still being detained for collecting signatures for the Charter. Doctor Liu Xiaobo has long pursued the ideals of human rights and democracy and has paid for this with a long time confinement. It is for us an honour and a pleasant duty to accept the award in his stead.
Different people may see the significance of Charter 08 in different ways but all its signatories agree in one respect: the Charter speaks of fundamental values and aims of a civilized society. These values and aims are actually laid down in the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and in a number of treaties and declarations which China has made as part of the United Nations. What we call for and what we demand is nothing but compliance with the existing obligations.
It is evident that Charter 08 is guided by the same spirit as Charter 77 was in its days. Yes, we did draw inspiration and encouragement from the Czechoslovak movement Charter 77, from the works of Václav Havel, from other Czech personalities. The two documents, Charter 77 and Charter 08, share certain similarities since the former Czechoslovakia and today's China share a similar authoritarian ideology and style of governance, a similar social atmosphere and moral situation in an absence of truth and justice. Both Charters are also underpinned by the same principles based on adherence to international treaties and defence of human rights. [End Page 180]
. . . The Chinese began to strive for a constitutional government more than a hundred years ago. These efforts still come across obstacles and have not yet been crowned with success. . .
We who are facing a double crisis, economic and political, imprint deep on our hearts the interest and support we receive from Czech people. And with the same enthusiasm we watch your transformations and successes.
On March 17, following weeks of uncertainty, President Marc Ravalomanana stepped down under pressure from the military. The military leaders then conferred power on opposition leader Andry Rajoelina. On March 20, the African Union suspended Madagascar's membership. Excerpts from its statement on the situation in Madagascar appear below:
The Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU), at its 181st meeting held on 20 March 2009, adopted the following decision on the situation in Madagascar. The Council . . .
3. Notes that, following the resignation of President Marc Ravalomanana, under pressure from the civilian opposition and the armed forces, the transfer of power was made in violation of the relevant provisions of the Malagasy Constitution, and that the subsequent decisions to confer the Office of the President of the Republic to Mr. Andry Rajoelina constitute an unconstitutional change of Government. The Council strongly condemns this unconstitutional change of Government, which marks another serious setback in the ongoing democratization processes on the continent and reinforces the concern over the resurgence of the scourge of coups d'état in Africa, as expressed by the 12th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union held in Addis Ababa from 1 to 4 February 2009;
4. Decides, in accordance with the Lomé Declaration on Unconstitutional Changes of Government and the Constitutive Act of the AU, to suspend Madagascar from participating in the activities of the AU until the restoration of constitutional order in this country. . . .
5. Calls upon all Member States of the AU and the international community at large to reject their unconstitutional change and to refrain from any...