Documents on Democracy

Issue Date July 2008
Volume 19
Issue 3
Page Numbers 181-186
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On March 10, protests broke out in Tibet against Beijing’s treatment of the Tibetan people. After these protests were harshly suppressed, 29 Chinese intellectuals, including writers Wang Lixiong and Liu Xiaobo, wrote a petition containing “Twelve Suggestions for Dealing with the Tibet Situation.” Excerpts appear below:

1. At present the one-sided propaganda of the official Chinese media is having the effect of stirring up interethnic animosity and aggravating an already tense situation. This is extremely detrimental to the long-term goal of safeguarding national unity. We call for such propaganda to be stopped.

2. We support the Dalai Lama’s appeal for peace, and hope that the ethnic conflict can be dealt with according to the principles of goodwill, peace, and nonviolence. We condemn any violent act against innocent people, strongly urge the Chinese government to stop the violent suppression, and appeal to the Tibetan people likewise not to engage in violent activities.

3. The Chinese government claims that “there is sufficient evidence to prove this incident was organized, premeditated, and meticulously orchestrated by the Dalai clique.” We hope that the government will show proof of this. In order to change the international community’s negative view and distrustful attitude, we also suggest that the government invite the United Nation’s Commission on Human Rights to carry out an independent investigation of the evidence, the course of the incident, the number of casualties, etc. . . .

8. We urge the Chinese government to allow credible national and international media to go into Tibetan areas to conduct independent interviews and news reports. In our view, the current news blockade cannot gain credit with the Chinese people or the international community, and is harmful to the credibility of the Chinese government. If the government grasps the true situation, it need not fear challenges. [End Page 181] Only by adopting an open attitude can we turn around the international community’s distrust of our government.

9. We appeal to the Chinese people and overseas Chinese to be calm and tolerant, and to reflect deeply on what is happening. Adopting a posture of aggressive nationalism will only invite antipathy from the international community and harm China’s international image.

10. The disturbances in Tibet in the 1980s were limited to Lhasa, whereas this time they have spread to many Tibetan areas. This deterioration indicates that there are serious mistakes in the work that has been done with regard to Tibet. The relevant government departments must conscientiously reflect upon this matter, examine their failures, and fundamentally change the failed nationality policies.

11. In order to prevent similar incidents from happening in future, the government must abide by the freedom of religious belief and the freedom of speech explicitly enshrined in the Chinese Constitution, thereby allowing the Tibetan people fully to express their grievances and hopes, and permitting citizens of all nationalities freely to criticize and make suggestions regarding the government’s nationality policies.

12. We hold that we must eliminate animosity and bring about national reconciliation, not continue to increase divisions between nationalities. A country that wishes to avoid the partition of its territory must first avoid divisions among its nationalities. Therefore, we appeal to the leaders of our country to hold direct dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

European Union

José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, spoke at the formal launch of the European Foundation for Democracy through Partnership (EFDP) in Brussels on April 15 (see pp. 188–89 below). Excerpts from his speech follow:

The launch of this foundation in the context of European support for democratisation and respect for human rights is very good news. . . .

I am . . . delighted that your foundation will be reinforcing Europe’s visibility still more in our converging activities to promote democracy.

. . . Today, the main region in which democratic regimes are still in a minority is the Middle East. We are convinced that if this region took greater steps towards democracy, it would one day cease to be a hotspot of tension and conflict. In some regions of Asia and Africa, too, democracy is under threat, fragile or still absent.

Democratisation is a complex task which can only be achieved if numerous factors are put in place: free elections, institutional and legislative reform, an independent justice system, rights of minorities, the fight against discrimination, independent media and the fight against corruption. And acceptance of these elements depends [End Page 182] in turn on the presence of broader conditions, such as peace and development.

To translate democratic principles into a concrete and durable reality through pluralist governance and political practices is a challenge for the democratic forces of a country.

It is also a challenge for the international community and for all the players on the ground who provide the political, social, administrative and technical support for the process. . . .

Respect for freedoms and the rule of law are . . . at the heart of the European project.

It is precisely because Europe embodies these values that the attraction exerted by European integration has been such a powerful driving force for democratisation. In fifteen years, the political aspects of the Copenhagen criteria, for example, have done more for democracy in half our continent than two thousand years of history. The transformative power of the EU has been a powerful factor for democratic change in Europe and beyond. Our soft power is hard reality. And the perspective of EU membership remains a strong incentive for democratic change.

. . . For fifty years, European political foundations, too, have played an active role in supporting this advance towards democracy. To take one example in the case of Portugal, the German foundations, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, all provided valuable support to the consolidation of democracy in my country in the 1970s. Today, also, I encourage all actors in the field to work together to that end, both within Europe and with our partners abroad such as the US.

Respect for freedoms and the rule of law are also at the heart of our external relations.

The promotion of democracy and human rights is a key political objective of the European Union in its relations with third countries . . . Why should we wish to promote democracy outside the borders of the Union? It is a question of values. It is also a question of interests.

By investing in the democratisation of its neighbours and their partners, it invests in their openness and development. It invests in fairer societies in which the incidence of social problems, the use of force, and political, religious or cultural radicalisation is decreasing. Ultimately, the return on the investment made is collective and translates into prosperity, stability and peace for all.

Over 50 percent of all countries on our planet are now democracies, compared with just 25 percent forty years ago. But we still have a lot of work ahead of us to ensure the emergence of a genuine world ecosystem of political pluralism, social justice and respect for human dignity. There will never be too many of us to achieve this task! . . . I wish the European Foundation for Democracy through Partnership every success in this common cause. [End Page 183]


On May 30, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), winner of the first round of Zimbabwe’s still-contested March 29 presidential election (see p. 179 above), addressed the MDC’s Parliamentary Caucus in what was dubbed a “state of the nation” address. Excerpts follow:

Today is an historic occasion. Today I stand before you delivering a State of the Nation address to the new MDC Majority in Parliament!

For the first time since our liberation in 1980, Zimbabwe will witness a new and different era of governance. An era of democratic governance for the people and by the people. An era of governance that transforms our nation from the past and present disaster to an era of new opportunity.

The 29th of March seems a long time ago, but on that day, the MDC won control of the House of Assembly and Senate, and together with our coalition partners, we became Zimbabwe’s new ruling party.

Each of you played a part in transforming “opposition” MDC to “ruling party” MDC. This is a huge responsibility for each of us. We cannot point fingers anymore. Our victory must herald a new and better future for our children. Our people-centered model of leadership must herald a new hope for our country.

Ours will be a long and sometimes dangerous road. At the beginning of our new road together, I want to salute each of you for your courage in recent days, and congratulate you as members of the winning team.

Very soon will be a time for celebration, but now is a time for us to get down to work.

As we prepare for the next election, our people stand on a precipice of fear and expectation. They voted for change and now they face many risks. Indeed we all stand on a bridge between yesterday’s betrayal and tomorrow’s promise. We as leaders have a historic responsibility to reverse the tide of intolerance, violence, corruption, inequality, discrimination, hatred, division, and patronage.

The state of our nation today is well known to all of us. We are an unmitigated embarrassment to the African continent. The state of our nation is actually beyond embarrassment, it is tragic—the world’s highest inflation, 80 percent unemployment, education that has plummeted from the best in the Africa to one of the worst and a health care system that has dire shortages of doctors, nurses, medicine, beds and blankets. The State of our Nation today is a State of Despair.

Indeed, MDC as the new ruling party has inherited a government with no accountability to the people, no desire to encourage the growth of business, no commitment to workers to ensure their fundamental rights. [End Page 184] We have inherited a government that respects neither man, nor woman, nor child. We have inherited a government with no compass for what is right or just or economically sound for the country,

It doesn’t have to be this way. We are a great country. We are rich with the talents of a great people with a tremendous work ethic who just want jobs, food, peace, and a future for our children. We are rich in natural resources and rich in resources to attract investors back to Zimbabwe. We can provide the services to feed our people—it is up to each of us in this room to say that Zimbabwe is open for business.

The people of Zimbabwe have chosen the MDC’s elected officials to lay the foundations of a new Zimbabwe based on tolerance, equality, respect, solidarity, peace, unity, justice, and humble and obedient leadership.

I want to be clear about the fundamental values that will be the cornerstone, not just of our legislation and our parliament but in fact the values that will guide and steer our government and the course that will take us forward.

A New Zimbabwe will respect the dignity and rights of every man, woman and child and these rights will be enshrined in a people-centered Constitution. A New Zimbabwe will ensure that every man, woman and child has access to food, shelter, employment, healthcare and education.

In a New Zimbabwe every man, woman and child will be able to live together in peace, tolerance and prosperity. In a New Zimbabwe, our police will defend our rights, not destroy our hopes; our army will defend our borders, not attack our people. In a New Zimbabwe, our prisons will detain only criminals, not freedom-loving citizens.

In a New Zimbabwe we will have a People’s Parliament that is not a rubber stamp but a true representative of democratic principles and the wishes and aspirations of the great Zimbabwean people. In a New Zimbabwe we will have checks and balances. And, very different from our past, I want the debates in parliament to be covered live on radio and television so that the people’s business is not secret. Our MPs will be accountable to the voters, not hidden away behind high walls.

In a New Zimbabwe, too, the people must play a critical part. They must vigilantly keep their elected leaders accountable. They must not ask what the government can do for them, but also what they can each do together and individually to make Zimbabwe great again.

These core values will lay the groundwork for the legislative agenda I will outline today. This agenda is based upon the return of fundamental freedoms to the people of Zimbabwe. We shall call our Legislative Agenda the Restore Hope Campaign—Kudzoredzera tariro.

The Restore Hope Campaign will launch what I call the Third Republic— the first Republic in Zimbabwe was colonialist oppression that ended in 1980. The Second Republic was rule by those who liberated [End Page 185] us from our oppressors but who unfortunately then transformed into irresponsible, violent and undemocratic tyrants. The Third Republic is the next generation of African leaders underpinned by the values of love, tolerance, rule of law and constitutionalism. The Third Republic is a postliberation transformation—a consolidation and entrenchment of democratic values and institutions. The Third Republic is the New Zimbabwe.

MDC’s Restore Hope Campaign has five components that I shall briefly outline today. These components are not in the chronological order or in order of importance. All must be tackled together as a matter of urgency: first, we shall urgently promote national healing; second, we shall restore the people’s freedoms; third, we shall restore the people’s dignity; fourth, we shall restore the people’s basic services; and fifth, we shall restore Zimbabwe to the family of nations. . . .

I thank you and may God bless Zimbabwe.


In a March 11 statement, issued in response to the proposed lifting of EU sanctions against Cuba, Václav Havel and other European-based members of the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba urged the EU to take a stand against the antidemocratic actions of the Cuban government. Excerpts appear below:

Five years ago, the European Union was on the verge of fulfilling one of the aspirations of the Velvet Revolutions that swept across Central and Eastern Europe by expanding from 15 to 25 members through the accession of several post-communist states. Yet, while the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain may have fallen into the dustbin of history, other vestiges of the Soviet era remain firmly in place. . . . One place that has not changed is Cuba, despite Fidel Castro’s decision to retire and hand the reins of power over to his brother Raul.

Given how central the values of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law are in Europe, we feel it is our obligation to speak out against such injustices continuing unchecked. Less than 20 years ago there were political prisoners on the E.U.’s borders who were denied the basic rights of freedom of speech and expression, lived in constant fear of being denounced, and dreamed about enjoying what Europeans in the “West” took for granted. . . .

The E.U. should denounce human rights violations in Cuba and call for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience. . . . Five years ago the dream of several former Soviet satellites being members of the E.U. was becoming a reality. Dissidents and those committed to the spread of democracy had made this possible. The time has come for us to repay that debt by helping those in Cuba, whose dreams have already been deferred for too long.

© 2008 Project Syndicate [End Page 186]