Documents on Democracy

Issue Date Winter 1990
Volume 1
Issue 1
Page Numbers 122-127
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The Federation for a Democratic China (FDC) was established in Paris on September 24 by more than 150 delegates from Chinese communities around the world, including many who fled China after the crackdown of June 4. The FDC elected as its chairman Yan Jiaqi, formerly director of Beijing’s Institute of Political Science and an adviser to deposed General Secretary Zhao Ziyang. Student leader Wuer Kaixi was named vice chairman of the group. The FDC also issued a declaration, excerpts from which follow:

. . .The Chinese people have reached the limits of their patience with the dictatorship of the Communist Party. History shows that the defects inherent in a system of one-party dictatorship can only be overcome by the disappearance of this system. The single party will never yield its position without a democratic awakening of all social groups, the appearance of an independent political force, and an unswerving and ever-growing democratic movement. The FDC has been established to accomplish these historic tasks.

The June 4 massacre has raised the consciousness of Chinese people all over the world, and has brought about the unification of Chinese democratic forces. The FDC is an independent political organization of Chinese people throughout the globe dedicated to the advance of democracy in China. Its principal objectives are to safeguard basic human rights, to uphold social justice, to develop a private enterprise economy, and to end one-party dictatorship.

The FDC upholds the following propositions:

Men are born with certain fundamental and inalienable rights: the rights to life and development, to the pursuit of happiness, and to human dignity and security. These rights are the basis of a civilized, modem society and the sine qua non of democratic politics.

All members of society are equal and are entitled to equal opportunity, regardless of sex, race, profession, and family origin. [End Page 122] Healthy and stable social development is impossible without the elimination of privileges and the maintenance of justice.

Every citizen has the right to own and dispose of the tools and fruits of his labor. The deprivation of individual property rights in the name of the state is an important cause of the economic stagnation and political tyranny found in countries ruled by a communist party. Returning social wealth to the people and developing private enterprise are the sole path to solving China’s economic problems and to achieving its modernization.

To end dictatorship and institute democracy, it is necessary to safeguard the citizen’s basic rights—freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and association. The armed forces must be controlled only by the state. The judiciary must be independent. Schooling should be freed from ideological control by the government so that academic and educational autonomy is assured. . . .

Adhering to the principles of peace, rationality, and nonviolence, the FDC strongly denounces the terrorist practices employed by the totalitarian regime against the peopIe. . . .

The FDC is convinced that the days of China’s dictatorship are numbered. The creation of a democratic China and the reawakening of the Chinese nation are near. . . .

The 21st century will be the century of democracy in China.

Long live a free and democratic China!

The Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation (BWAF) was among the groups which joined prodemocracy student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square last spring. Its founding represented the first time since 1949 that workers openly attempted to organize outside the official All China Federation of Trade Unions. Many of the BWAF’s organizers and activists were killed in the massacre in Tiananmen Square or arrested as counterrevolutionaries shortly thereafter. The fate of many others associated with the group is unknown. The following is the preamble to the “guiding principles” issued by the BWAF on May 25:

In the entire people’s patriotic democracy movement, led by the students since mid-April, the majority of the Chinese workers have demonstrated a strong wish to take part in politics. At the same time, they also realize that there is not yet an organization which can truly represent the wishes expressed by the working masses. Therefore, we recognize that there is a need to set up an autonomous organization which will speak for the workers and which will organize the realization of workers’ participation and consultation in political affairs. For this purpose, we put forward the following preparatory guiding principles:

The organization should be an entirely independent, autonomous [End Page 123] organization, built up by the workers on a voluntary basis, through democratic processes, and should not be controlled by other organizations.

The fundamental principle of the organization should be to address political and economic demands, based on the wishes of the majority of the workers; [it] should not remain just a welfare organization. . . .

The organization should have the power, through every legal and effective means, to monitor the legal representatives of all state and collective enterprises, guaranteeing that the workers become the real masters of the enterprise. In other enterprises, through negotiation with the owners and other legal means, the organization should be able to safeguard the rights of the workers. . . .


In mid-November, elections were held in Namibia to choose representatives for a constituent assembly charged with drafting a constitution for the newly independent country. The South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) won a majority in the assembly amid opposition concerns about its commitment to democratic principles. At the assembly’s first session on November 21, however, SWAPO proposed that principles negotiated by the major Western powers in 1982 serve as the basis for the constitution. The assembly unanimously accepted these principles, excerpts from which follow:

. . .The Constitution will be the supreme law of the state. It may be amended only by a designated process involving the legislature and/or votes cast in a popular referendum.

The Constitution will determine the organization and powers of all levels of government. It will provide for a system of government with three branches: an elected executive branch which will be responsible to the legislative branch; a legislative branch to be elected by universal and equal suffrage which will be responsible for the passage of all laws; and an independent judicial branch which will be responsible for the interpretation of the Constitution and for ensuring its supremacy and the authority of the law. The executive and legislative branches will be constituted by periodic and genuine elections which will be held by secret vote.

The electoral system will [seek to ensure fair representation . . . to the different political parties which gain substantial support in the election . . . ].

There will be a declaration of fundamental rights, which will include the rights to life, personal liberty, and freedom of movement; to freedom of conscience; to freedom of expression, including freedom of speech [End Page 124] and a free press; to freedom of assembly and association, including political parties and trade unions; to due process and equality before the law; to protection from arbitrary deprivation of private property or deprivation of private property without just compensation; and to freedom from racial, ethnic, religious, or sexual discrimination. The declaration of rights will be consistent with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Aggrieved individuals will be entitled to have the courts adjudicate and enforce these rights. . . .


On November 21 the Communist government of Czechoslovakia held its first talks with representatives of the opposition group Civic Forum. That same day, Cardinal František Tomašek, the country’s Roman Catholic Primate, issued a strongly worded letter of support to those protesting Communist rule. It was read to the more than 200,000 demonstrators gathered in Prague’s Wenceslas Square by the Reverend Vaclav Maly, a priest long involved with dissident and human rights groups in Czechoslovakia. Excerpts from the letter appear below:

I must not keep silent at a time when you have united in a mighty protest against the injustice that has been perpetrated against us for four decades. It is impossible to trust a state leadership which is not willing to tell the truth and [which], in a country with a thousand-year-old state tradition, denies rights and freedoms considered normal even in the youngest states of the Third World.

We must not wait anymore, we must act. We need a democratic government, because otherwise we will not be able to hold back the ecological catastrophe that threatens us and other evils. All those who have something to tell us must be free to appear in public, so that from among them we can freely elect a government for us, and not against us.

I only ask that you continue on the road of nonviolence. Let us fight for the good by good means. In our oppressors we see how short-lived are the victories of . . . hate, lust for revenge . . . and arrogance.

[Addressing Catholics:] In this fateful hour of our history, none of you may stand aside. Raise your voice again, this time in unity with other citizens, Czechs and Slovaks and members of other nationalities, believers and nonbelievers. The right to [exercise one’s] faith cannot be separated from other democratic rights. Freedom is indivisible. With God’s help, our fate is in our hands.

On November 17 the Communist government of Czechoslovakia harshly suppressed a public demonstration in Prague. In response, opposition [End Page 125] groups united on November 19 to create an umbrella organization, Civic Forum, to press their demands. On November 26, after a week of mass demonstrations that prompted the resignation of the Communist Party leadership, Civic Forum issued a political program entitled “What Do We Want.” The excerpts below were provided by the Czechoslovak Documentation Center and are based, in part, on a translation that appeared in the Independent (London):

Our country has found itself in a deep moral, spiritual, ecological, social, economic, and political crisis. This crisis is testimony to the ineffectiveness of the hitherto existing political and economic system. . . . All three basic functions in the state—the legislative, executive, and judicial functions-have been concentrated in the hands of a narrow ruling group, consisting almost exclusively of members of the Communist Party. . . . People are denied a long list of human, civic, and political rights. . . . The system of centralized management of the economy has unquestionably proved a failure. These problems will not be changed by changing several persons in positions of power or by several politicians resigning from public life.

The Civic Forum therefore aims at achieving the following program objectives:

  1. THE LAW: The Czechoslovak republic must be a law-based democratic state in the spirit of the traditions of Czechoslovak statehood and of internationally accepted principles, expressed above all in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Conventions on Civic and Political Rights. In this spirit, a new constitution must be worked out which will especially make more precise relations between citizens and state. Such a constitution can be adopted only by a newly elected legislative assembly. . . .
  2. POLITICAL SYSTEM: We demand fundamental, consistent, and lasting changes in the political system of our society. . . . All existing and newly founded political parties and other political and social associations should have an equal opportunity to participate in free elections for all levels of government. This assumes, however, that the Communist Party abandons its constitutionally guaranteed leading role within our society. . . .
  3. FOREIGN POLICY:. . .We are part of Central Europe and we therefore want to maintain good relations with all of our neighbors. We envisage our joining European integration. We would like to subordinate our policy towards our Warsaw Pact partners and those in Comecon to the idea of a common European home. . . .
  4. NATIONAL ECONOMY: We have to abandon our long-standing methods of running the economy. . . . We are convinced that this economic system cannot be improved by minor modifications.We want to create a developed market, not deformed by bureaucratic [End Page 126] interventions. Its successful functioning demands the demolition of the monopoly position of existing large enterprises and the establishment of genuine competition. This can be created solely on the basis of different types of ownership coexisting parallel on an equal footing. . . .
  5. SOCIAL JUSTICE:. . .Czechoslovakia must be a country with social justice, where the elderly are taken care of, where the sick and needy receive aid. An important prerequisite for such a society is, however, a prosperous national economy. . . .
  6. THE ENVIRONMENT:. . .We will strive for a gradual repairing of the damage which has been inflicted upon nature during recent decades. . . . We shall insist on an imperative improvement of care for the environment aimed at not only liquidating existing sources of pollution but above all preventing further damage. . . .
  7. CULTURE: Culture . . . must free itself from all restrictive ideologies and overcome the existing artificial separation of our culture from the rest of the world’s culture. . . . A democratic education system must be organized on principles of humanity, without a state monopoly of education. . . .

East Germany

On November 9 the East German government—under pressure from a mass exodus of its citizens through Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland—declared that it would allow its citizens to travel abroad or emigrate. Though the announcement itself consisted of little more than revised regulations, this momentous policy reversal was greeted with euphoria by East Germans, thousands of whom streamed across the Berlin Wall to test their new freedoms. The text of the announcement, as reported by Reuters, follows:

The Government spokesman told [the official East German news agency] A.D.N. [that] the Council of Ministers of East Germany has decided immediately to set in force the following stipulations for private journeys and permanent emigration until a corresponding parliamentary law comes into effect:

  1. Private journeys into foreign countries can be applied for without fulfilling preconditions (reasons for travel, relatives). Permission will be given at short notice.
  2. The relevant passport and registration offices of the regional offices of the People’s Police in East Germany have been ordered to issue visas for permanent emigration immediately without the present preconditions for permanent emigration having been fulfilled. . . .
  3. Permanent emigration is allowed across all border crossing points between East Germany and West Germany and West Berlin. . . . [End Page 127]