Chrter 08: Creative Translation?Written by Julen Madariaga on December 23rd, 2008
Last 10th December, a group of Chinese human right activists published a document called Chrter 08, requiring political reform in the PRC. This document has had surprisingly little impact in the Western media/blogging scene.
There is no telling right now how influential this document is going to be looking into potentially conflictive 2009. In any case, it is a must read for anyone interested in the political evolution of this country. I have spent the little free time that I had last week reading the Charter in its original Chinese form. I am preparing a more detailed post about it, but for the moment, I want to share these notes:
- There is a translation by professor Perry Link, published on the New York Review of Books, that has been almost the single source for non-chinese speaking readers worldwide. It is the translation used by Wikipedia (unless they accept my change), and also by the mainstream media, including WSJ and Time. I was shocked to see that the translation is not accurate, including in the preamble some references to the Tiananmen incidents that are not on the Chinese original. Has the original been modified, or did Perry Link publish a creative translation, adding juicy details about his favourite subject? I leave this question open until I find an answer. But needless to say, I think if the translator has consciously altered the content of the document it is a lack of respect for the brave Chinese who risked their freedom to sign it. (my apologies to professor Link if this is not the case)
- I am surprised by the little echo that this significant event has had on the Western media/blogging scene. All those noisy journalists that are self proclaimed defensors of Human Rights in China, but only raise thir voices when there is some spectacular violence to sell newspapers, and not for a “boring” document without pictures that lazy Westerners will never read anyway. Fair enough, it is very possible that the Charter will not fly, but there is no telling what 09 will bring us in China, and the effort and sacrifice of all these Chinese intellectuals in itself deserves more attention.
- The Chinese government has done a good job of controlling the net. At the time of writing it seems impossible to access from the mainland any site carrying the Charter in Chinese. It is sad to see that they have succeeded in silencing also the Western blogs (although as far as I know there has not been a single one blocked for speaking of the Charter). I guess most are simply not interested or else too scared of seeing their blog blocked in PRC. I know that I am risking many hours of efforts if I get my own blog blocked because of this post, but I think it is the least I could do for those 300 odd authors that are risking much more than this.
I have also found a more accurate translation of the Charter here.
UPDATE1: The article on Wikipedia has been changed. See the article’s dicussion page for more details.
UPDATE2: Thanks to comment below and to some further research on the internet, I have the theory now that Chinese authors introduced last minute modifications to eliminate some non-essential points and avoid trouble for those already arrested, like Liu Xiaobo. This would make sense, as Liu Xiaobo had been sentenced before for participation in Tiananmen89 activities. Even if this is the case, it is difficult to understand why professor Link didn’t change his translation accordingly, perhaps reflecting some disagreement among the original authors.