Chinese scholars push for reform
Stop short of seeking end to one-party rule
BEIJING • More than 70 prominent Chinese scholars and lawyers have urged the country’s new Communist Party leaders to undertake moderate political reforms including separating the party from government, though they avoid any mention of ending one-party rule.
The petition drafted by Peking University law professor Zhang Qianfan calls on the party to rule according to the constitution, protect freedom of speech, encourage private enterprise and allow for an independent judicial system. It also calls for the people to be able to elect their own representatives without interference from the Communist Party.
Zhang said there is an urgent need for change to better address the widespread problems the country faces, such as social inequity, abuse of government powers and corruption.
“China runs the risk of revolution and chaos if it does not change,” Zhang said.
The document echoes some of the requests made in Charter 08, a 2008 manifesto that made an unusually direct call for an end to single-party rule and other democratic reforms. The manifesto landed its lead architect, dissident writer Liu Xiaobo, in prison for inciting subversion — an 11-year term he is still serving.
The petition, released on Christmas Day, adopts a milder tone, asking the party leadership to rule within existing laws.
“It is indeed mild,” Zhang said Wednesday. “We hope it can be accepted by the government and will kick off conversations between the government and the people and among the public.”
China’s communist leaders have tolerated no political challenges to their authority since the military crushed pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.