Ottawa Citizen

Chi­nese schol­ars push for re­form

Stop short of seek­ing end to one-party rule

- DIDI TANG AND GIL­LIAN WONG

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.

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