Since the December launch of Charter 08, more than 8,500 Chinese citizens have joined its call for multiparty democracy. That takes courage, given that at least 100 signatories have been harassed or interrogated, according to human rights groups. One of the Charter's co-authors, Liu Xiaobo, has been under detention in an unknown location since Dec. 8.
The Charter nonetheless continues to build momentum and has created a slight opening for dissenting voices. During China's legislative meetings earlier this month, Mao Zedong's secretary, Li Rui, wrote an open letter calling for more transparency, co-signed by a score of senior Communist Party members. The Charter has also added momentum to other petition drives, such as the "Citizens' Oversight Group Appeal," which calls for greater transparency in government. The author of the petition, Guo Yongfeng, says that more than 10,000 people have signed on. Mr. Guo told us he was detained for nearly two weeks this month while the Beijing congresses were in session.
These petitions are unlikely to bring political change in the near term, but as the events of the past few months have shown, neither are they in vain. The Charter is still circulating -- largely by email -- and continues to gain signatures. That's a sign that its effects will continue to ripple outward and that the democrats' day will come.