China Beat Archive



Jeremy Paltiel

Date of this Version


Document Type



December 16, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright December 16, 2008 Jeremy Paltiel. Used by permission.


Today, December 12, 2008 Xinhua reports that China’s President and the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Hu Jintao sent a letter to a symposium held by the China Association for the Study of Human Rights to commemorate International Human Rights Day, the 60th Anniversary of the passage by the UN General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In his letter, Hu avers that since the founding of New China in 1949 China has made steady progress in the protection of human rights according to China’s “national situation” culminating in the solemn enshrinement of the principle of respect and protection of human rights in the Constitution of the Communist Party of China and the state constitution of the PRC. The letter was read out by the Vice-Director of Party’s “Publicity Department” a.k.a. Propaganda Department concurrently the head of the Central Committee’s office for foreign propaganda and the State Council Information Office Wang Chen.

This symposium and Hu’s letter took place against the background of “Charter 2008.” This document, (modeled on the Charter 77 movement of led by the dissident Czech playwright and later president Vaclav Havel in 1977) was signed by 303 well-known intellectuals, legal practitioners and human rights activists, from the length and breadth of China. Both documents were written in the shadow of the thirtieth anniversary of China’s opening under Deng Xiaoping that the Communist Party is celebrating this month. The Charter by contrast, gives credit to “Democracy Wall” the popular movement that accompanied and promoted the Party’s reform thirty years ago until it was shut down on the orders of Deng.

Unlike Hu’s letter, the Charter specifies doleful human rights events under Communist party rule – the Anti-Rightist Campaign of 1957, the Great Leap Forward, The Cultural Revolution, 6.4 (1989) and the continuing repression of popular religious observance.