The publication of ``Charter 08`` by over 300 prominent Chinese citizens on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in conscious imitation of the path-breaking ``Charter 77`` of Czechoslovakian democrats is a noteworthy step toward the formation of a broad-based and unified democratic movement in the People`s Republic of China.
Both the launching of the ``Charter 08`` campaign and the predictable crackdown by the PRC`s Chinese Communist Party regime merits concern and support from Taiwan`s 23 million people for many reasons, not the least of which is the paramount importance of political change in China for the survival of Taiwan`s own democracy or national existence.
The issuance of the ``Charter`` is also timely for both the world community because, as observed earlier this week by the Washington Post,`` it punctures the notion that CCP neo-authoritarianism can offer either an alterative political or economic development path for a world shaken by the structural crisis in the global neoliberal model.
The Charter thus also punctures the pollyannaish vision of the restored Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) government of President Ma Ying-jeou that rapid integration through ``deregulation`` with the PRC economy and slavish appeasement with the CCP regime will lead to ``peace and prosperity`` for Taiwan.
On the contrary, ``Charter 08`` pointed out that the PRC remains ``the only country among the major nations that remains mired in authoritarian politics`` and that the CCP`s authoritarian regime ``continues to produce human rights disasters and social crises.``
Besides ``fostering official corruption, obstructing the rule of law and undermining human rights,`` the Charter also warns that the PRC authoritarian system has also ``polarized society, distorted economic development and ravaged the natural ecology and human environment.``
The ``Charter 08`` also issued a grave warning of imminent crisis in the PRC by observing that ``the sharpening animosity between officials and ordinary people`` and the lack of channels for legitimate protest or redress is ``raising the possibility of a violent conflict of disastrous proportions`` and declared that ``the decline of the current system has reached the point where change is no longer optional.``
In addition, the Charter expressed its adherence to ``fundamental principles`` of freedom, human rights, equality, republicanism, democracy and constitutional rule and proposed 19 areas of reform, including calls for a new constitution, the freedom of speech, association and assembly, an independent judiciary, democratic elections at all levels, genuine guarantees for human rights, the political neutralization of the military and civil service, protection of private property, fair and adequate social security and welfare systems and environmental protection.
Charter 08`s advocation regarding the ``Taiwan question`` is contained in its call to transform the PRC, including Hong Kong, Macau and other ``national minority`` areas, presumably including Tibet, into a ``Chinese federated republic under a democratic constitutional structure.``
``Based on the premises of freedom and democracy, we should engage in negotiations based on equality and cooperative interaction to search for a formula for reconciliation across the two sides of the Taiwan Strait,`` the Charter declares.
Unfortunately, ``Charter 08`` seems to be unable to transcend ``great Chinese nationalism`` as its implied commitment to eventual unification seems to share the CCP`s rejection of the free right of choice of Taiwan`s 23 million people, not to mention the people of Tibet or even Hong Kong and Macau.
Nevertheless, we believe that the fact that ``Charter 08`` neither specifically advocates ``peaceful unification`` nor endorses the CCP`s ``one country, two systems`` formula can widen the door of a cross-strait dialogue among advocates of democracy and human rights to contest the ``authoritarian`` track already functioning between the CCP and the KMT.
For its part, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party responded positively by issuing a statement Monday offering support for the advocacy of democratization and improvement of human rights contained in ``Charter 08`` and expressing the ``heart-felt desire`` that the new campaign ``will allow China to take a major step toward democracy.
Moreover, the DPP noted that, as Taiwan`s democratic development had received concern and assistance from world democratic groups and individuals, ``Taiwan has a definite responsibility and necessity to be concerned with China`s democratic development.``
Hence, the DPP added its voice to the denunciation issued Saturday by the Taiwan Association of Human Rights and other civic organizations of the detention of noted Chinese democratic dissident writer Liu Xiaobo and other ``Charter 08`` signatories by PRC Public Security or National Security agencies.
Sadly, there has been barely a peep of support for ``Charter 08`` or protest against the CCP`s detention of Liu or other human rights campaigners from the KMT, whom are rather more concerned with keeping power through ``reconciliation`` with the CCP than fulfilling Ma`s forgotten campaign rhetoric in support of Chinese democracy.
Last but not least, ``Charter 08`` should remind all Taiwan citizens and the world community that deepening and preserving Taiwan`s own democracy is critical to the both the welfare of our own 23 million people and to hopes for the emergence of a democratic and peaceful China.