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  • » 03/05/2009, 00.00


    Bao Tong: Absolute power of the Party will suffocate the people and the economy

    Bao Tong

    A message from the leading pro-democracy dissident to the delegates of the National People’s Congress, which met today. The economic stimulus passed by the government needs oversight in order to avoid corruption, the impoverishment of migrant workers, pollution, and waste of resources. It is time to put limits on the absolute power of the Party, and to reevaluate the Tiananmen movement, wiped out by the violent massacre in 1989.
    Beijing (AsiaNews) - The economic stimulus package passed by the Chinese government risks destroying even more the lives of migrants, and increasing the corruption and violence of the Party. This is the impassioned plea and the lucid analysis that Bao Tong is offering to the delegates of the National People’s Congress, which opened today. One of the signers of Charter '08 Bao Tong, 75, is one of the most prominent figures of the nonviolent pro-democracy dissident movement in China. According to the statesman, for the good of the Chinese people, it is necessary to establish limits on the absolute power of the Party, and reconsider the judgment of the pro-democracy Tiananmen movement, which ended with a massacre on June 4, 1989.

    A former member of the Communist Central Committee, and the personal secretary and friend of former secretary Zhao Ziyang, in 1989 both he and Zhao opposed the army intervention that led to the massacre of Tiananmen. Because of this opposition, he spent seven years in prison. Since 1997, he has been under house arrest, watched 24 hours a day. His telephone is always under surveillance, and is often disabled. Before falling into disgrace, he worked in close contact with current prime minister Wen Jiabao.

    (Translation by AsiaNews)

    To the National People’s Congress:

    I would like to make three suggestions to the National People’s Congress currently in session.


    The rural population makes up two thirds of our country. 70% of the income of this rural population comes from migrant work. In this economic crisis, rural migrant workers are the social group suffering the most from unemployment. However, some in the state administrations have come up with the policy idea of “saving only ‘advanced production’ and abandoning ‘not-so-advanced production,’” with their decision to “upgrade industry” [teng long huan niao: empty the cage for new birds]. This idea was formed under the influence of the “important thoughts of three represents.”[1]

     The structural transformation of the manufacturing industry must follow a natural course of economic development. Forced changes through premature adoption of administrative means often yield extreme results and fatal consequences. The number of migrant workers in China is the highest in the world. Without migrant workers and the labor-intensive industries in townships and villages, China would not be where it is today. It would be suicidal to [make policies to] discriminate against them. The NPC now in session should be responsible for correcting this policy.  

    The NPC also needs to provide a lawful explanation for the idea of making “important thoughts of three represents” a part of the constitution. What it should be is a declaration of a trend of thinking, together with other trends of thought such as “selected works of Mao Zedong” or “selected works of Deng Xiaoping,” which are not legally binding on policy making.

    The duty of a government is to maintain social justice and to be fair to all legal enterprises and all work forces according to the law. I plead with the NPC to order all levels of state administration to continue to protect (labor-intensive) village and township enterprises and to do their very best to help rural migrant workers who have lost their jobs; significantly reduce the amount of funds directly controlled by state administrations (especially funds allocated to Communist Party administrations), so that these resources can be channeled to consumption funds, especially rural. The goal is to end the abnormal situation of “rich state vs. poor people” and the huge income gap between urban and rural areas. Only if an effort is made towards reaching this goal can China materialize the much desired domestic market. If 800 million rural residents are without decent purchasing power, there will be no significant domestic market. Without elevating the income levels of rural residents or rural migrant workers, that is, the purchasing power of the largest sector of society; the so-called policy of “stimulating the domestic market” will surely be misguided.


    The Chinese populace is deeply concerned about the four trillion yuan designated as an economic stimulant. Four trillion yuan are the savings of the entire people, an average of 3,000 yuan for each of China’s 1.3 billion people. For millionaires, it is a drop in the ocean, but for the millions of poor, it means surviving for a year.

    So will this huge sum be used improperly? Will it aggravate various social problems? For example, will it stimulate even more lavish spending by some Communist Party administrators, or more corruption on the part of some officials, or more substandard construction projects[2], thereby harming the nation and the people? Will it worsen the growing urban/rural income gap or worsen the already decreasing ratio of labor income versus GDP? Or will it stimulate a new surge of environmental pollution and destruction of natural resources?  

    It is only reasonable for people to harbor so many concerns. Shanghainese lawyer, Mr. Yan Yiming, has lobbied the government to make the stimulus plan public but his request was politely refused by central government authorities. It appears that the government has decided it is “inappropriate to reveal to outsiders” the plan of how to spend the four trillion yuan stimulus package. This could only mean that first, the Communist Party who is “the servant of the people” is an “insider” while the people who are “the masters of the nation” are “outsiders”; second, the four trillion yuan of the people’s savings are the private property of the government; and third, the people’s right to know is only “the right to know after a decision has been made.”


    China’s black box practices, corruption, and the great divide between rich and poor, urban and rural; all these are carried on the same gene as absolute power and are the consequences of the June Fourth Tiananmen crackdown of 1989. Former Chairman of the Central Military Commission Deng Xiaoping mobilized hundreds of thousands of army troops trained for national defense to suppress students and citizens demonstrating against corruption and calling for democracy. They used tanks and machine guns. It was a great tragedy caused by one-party authoritarian rule.

    Many of the problems of today’s China can be traced back to the tragedy of June Fourth and are the result of the unrestrained growth of absolute power. The past twenty years has proven that China will never realize the ideal of “for the people,” nor achieve harmony, long time stability and renewal without resolving the issue of June Fourth. Rights of the official trample upon rights of the people; power monopolizes wealth; power distorts truth; power maintains injustice. All of this ugliness will be repeated, again and again (without a resolution of the June Fourth issue). Former Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang once pointed out that, “Sooner or later, the issue of re-evaluating June Fourth must be resolved. Even if it is put off for a long time, people will not forget. It is better to resolve it earlier rather than later, proactively rather than passively, and in stable rather than in troubled times.” This is not only a powerful axiom, but a calm and well-reasoned analysis.

    But the CCP Central Committee has hesitated and repeatedly missed opportunities to do so. The NPC has both the responsibility and the power to seize this opportunity at the twentieth anniversary of the June Fourth tragedy to make a decision and take proactive measures. In fact, the NPC and its Standing Committee are no less victims of the June Fourth Incident than the populace at large. It is well known that in 1989, the report submitted by former State Council member Chen Xitong on behalf of then Premier Li Peng, “Report on checking the turmoil and quelling the counter-revolutionary rebellion”, was based completely on falsehoods. The NPC Standing Committee had passed the resolution while under martial law. Now it is time for the NPC to stand up and bravely reverse this mistake: to reject Chen Xitong’s report made on behalf of Li Peng, repeal the NPC Standing Committee’s resolution of July 1989, and publicly reveal the truth of June Fourth.  

    The NPC should use this as a starting point to carry out its rightful mission. I believe that true friends of the Communist Party and Party members with a conscience still exist, and that they are willing to do just that.

    Bao Tong

    March 3, 2009

    [1] The "three representations" is a concept attributed to former president Jiang Zemin, according to whom the party in power, and therefore the state, must be the expression of "advanced production forces, of advanced cultural forces, and of the interests of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people." This idea was inserted into the preamble of the Chinese Constitution in March of 2004.

    [2] Bao Tong is referring to the scandal of the schools and government buildings that collapsed in the earthquake in Sichuan. It was discovered that they had collapsed because they were built without enough cement. The funds to buy cement had been pocketed by local officials.

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