(Political Legitimacy and Charter 08)接上页博讯www.peacehall.com
The attempt to gain “legitimacy” for the regime through economic development is, therefore, doomed to bankruptcy.On the one hand, economic development can only achieve partial “justification.” People demand basic freedom and dignity. Without political freedom, there cannot be complete “justification.” On the other hand, even if the regime did achieve “justification,” this would not be equivalent to gaining “legitimacy.” The legal basis of political power can only originate in genuine endorsement by the people.
To demand that under such a political structure non-elected officials whole-heartedly serve the people and, moreover, protect people’s freedom of expression, is in itself a human myth. No matter how many Jiao Yulus22 or Kong Fansens23 the official media create, when power comes from the top rather than from voters, and when separation of powers and media freedoms are lacking, it is unavoidable that corruption among government officials will spread. The plundering of citizens’ interests and the encroachment on citizens’ rights then too become inevitable demands and the inevitable result of such a system. Under the workings of the totalitarian system, the strength of humanity within the system is often corroded, or, in other words, it is very difficult for those whose hands are clean to gain important positions in the system. The inertia in totalitarian and post-totalitarian systems is huge; because they are built on a foundation of violence, lies, and plunder, there is no way for them to initiate an ongoing dialogue with citizens in the way open societies do, and it is difficult for them to give prompt and effective responses to society’s demands.
Superficially, legitimacy comes from a democracy centered on voting, but in actuality the source of legitimacy is freedom of expression.In this way, the totalitarian system lacks legitimacy right from the start (there are no elections or endorsement). Moreover, maintaining this kind of rule means it is even less possible to gain legitimacy. To put it another way, Chinese Communists today have neither the desire nor the capability to hold public elections. Citizens’ rights to communication and participation are prerequisites for a healthy system. Superficially, legitimacy comes from a democracy centered on voting, but in actuality the source of legitimacy is freedom of expression. American legal philosopher Lon L. Fuller24 is famous for proposing key factors of legal proceduralism, but he still emphasizes that “openness, maintenance and protection of the integrity of the channels of communication” is the core principle of a substantively natural law. I believe that today we can undertake a workable assessment of the legitimacy of a regime: if it cannot achieve a minimal freedom of expression, the regime has no legitimacy. This standard is superior to that of “whether there is voting or not” because the fraud,manipulation, and brainwashing associated with voting are more difficult to observe and evaluate.
Let us return to the “wife-buying” example. What I want to illustrate is the relationship between justification and legitimacy. B’s purchase of A to be his wife without her consent obviously lacks legitimacy, but this does not imply that B can never gain legitimacy. If B loves and cares for A very much, gives her freedom, happiness, and security, and allows A to leave of her own will, it is very possible that A will recognize B as her lawful husband, and even go through the formalities of marriage. This kind of post-facto sanction gives the marriage of A and B legitimacy. (Of course, this in no way legitimates B’s act of buying a wife.) This is quite possible in reality. But for a regime? Is it possible to imagine that a one-party communist regime built on violence and ideology would give its citizens freedom, happiness, and security in political life, and, furthermore, allow its citizens the freedoms of speech, movement, and travel abroad, as well as lift restrictions on information and association and hold a general election? If the regime could do all this, it could gain citizens’ endorsement at any time and thus resolve the question of legitimacy. And if it could do all this, it would no longer be its original self—it would have crossed the threshold of a free democracy.
Charter 08, published on December 9, 2008, is a historic political document issued by Chinese civil society.25 It declares the necessity of universal values, such as human rights, rule of law, and democracy, and the necessity of systemic change, and puts forth a plan on how to resolve the current political and social crisis. In fact, it proposes the only possible way to resolve the problem of legitimacy. Since the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown on the democracy movement, the global tide of democratization has not subsided. The number of one-party totalitarian regimes has continued to decrease, making China the only non-democratic major power. Against this background, the significance of Charter 08 could only become more apparent with time.
The core of Charter 08 is freedom and human rights, its goal the establishment of a democratic constitutional government, reflecting the fundamental consensus within China’s movement for a civil society regarding the future direction of Chinese politics. Although the Maoist faction is gasping for air, there is little likelihood that it will stir up trouble in either the realm of thought or the political sphere. In 2004, when “human rights” were for the first time written into the Constitution of the PRC, it was difficult for the government to deny the legitimacy of the human rights language, but the current political power structure has no way to guarantee human rights. Whether in theory or in practice, only the political system that Charter 08 proposes to establish can be a system that truly guarantees human rights.
[T]he strength of this document does not actually lie in the number of people who have signed it, but in its content and in the hundreds of millions of citizens who approve this content.Charter 08 is the concentrated expression of people’s power built up by the democracy movement and the rights defense movement since the late 1970s. As Liu Xiaobo26 said, “The free China of the future lies among the people.” It is primarily civil society and the civilian movement that will decide the forward direction [of the country], not the high echelons of the CPC. More and more people are beginning to emerge from their fear, beginning to speak the truth, and beginning to join the ranks in the fight for freedom. Charter 08 primarily addresses ordinary citizens; it is an appeal to humanity and civil spirit, not an admonishment, plea, or demand to the government. It is, first of all, a citizens’ movement, not simply a political one. And it is also a movement for the long term, one that will accompany the whole process of the realization of democracy in China.
China is poised on the eve of a great transformation. The depth, complexity, and significance of this change can well be described as unprecedented and incomparable. Charter 08 reflects rationally on the major issues that will be confronted during the transformation, such as anti-rightism, land reform, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, Falun Gong, and June Fourth, as well as on ethnic relations and relations between central and local governments, and suggests the principles for solving them.
Though Charter 08 is only a text, a system of discourse, discourse itself has a power that cannot be ignored. The “imagined social construct” it offers will unleash an ideological contest with the Communist Party’s Marxism-Leninism, Maoism, and the Three Represents,27 and the authorities’ bombastic critique of “universal values” can be considered an indirect response to it. Discourse is action, even more so under a regime that suppresses freedom of speech. Look at how many journalists and writers have been imprisoned in China, look at with what trepidation the authorities have treated the signers of Charter 08, and you will know it. The authorities cannot evade the connotations of political legitimacy this document represents; the strength of this document does not actually lie in the number of people who have signed it, but in its content and in the hundreds of millions of citizens who approve this content. As Charter 08 states, “Legality of political power comes from the people.”