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. (For a full version of this text, see www.nybooks.com/articles/2009/04/30/remarks-by-vaclav-havel-and-two-members-of-chinas/.)
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 action likely to comfort the illegal regime in Madagascar.
On June 1, Mauricio Funes of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) was inaugurated as El Salvador’s first leftist president. (See the article by Forrest D. Colburn on pp. 143–52 above.) Excerpts from his address appear below: [End Page 181]
Change does not begin from the individual will of a president, but from the hands of a nation that recognizes this moment as a watershed in the creation of its own future, and that is aware that change will only be possible with the union of all. As I assume the presidency, I extend the same call for national unity that I issued before, during, and after the campaign. A union that is the fruit of a calming of spirits and of a creative optimism, and productive of democratic reconciliation of our differences and a collective commitment to create a new nation without hatred and without resentment. A union that is about a project of national development that has as its foundation social inclusion, the expansion of opportunities, an appreciation of production and work, the modernization of institutions, and the full guarantee of liberties—a union of free men and women who believe in themselves and in their country, and want to carry out a new national project. . . .
We must create an ethical revolution: The public good cannot be confused with personal gain; the ethic of quid pro quo must be replaced with that of healthy and democratic competition; and transparency and fighting corruption and every form of waste and diversion of public funds will be the things that our government holds sacred.
In May, Aung San Suu Kyi, political prisoner and leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma, was arrested and put on trial for violating the conditions of her house arrest after an uninvited American swam across a lake and entered her house. On May 19, ASEAN issued a statement condemning the treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi by the government of Burma (Myanmar):
Thailand, as the ASEAN Chair, expresses grave concern about recent developments relating to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, given her fragile health. In this connection, the Government of the Union of Myanmar is reminded that the ASEAN Leaders had called for the immediate release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Furthermore, the Government of the Union of Myanmar, as a responsible member of ASEAN, has the responsibility to protect and promote human rights. It is therefore called upon to provide timely and adequate medical care to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as well as to accord her humane treatment with dignity.
With the eyes of the international community on Myanmar at present, the honour and the credibility of the Government of the Union of Myanmar are at stake. Thailand, as the ASEAN Chair, reaffirms ASEAN’s readiness to contribute constructively to the national reconciliation process and the peaceful transition to democracy in Myanmar. [End Page 182]