02/20/2008, 00.00

Growing debate within Communist Party over democratic reforms

Democratic reforms are seen as necessary to continue economic growth and fight corruption. Media should be freer to remind leaders of their duties. Communist leaders also call for greater democracy. In March new government is to be chosen.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Only democratic reforms can keep in check corruption, curtail media censorship and make the country’s more representative, this according to a report entitled Storming the Fortress: A research report on China’s political system reform after the 17th  party congress, whose authors include senior researchers at the Central Communist Party School in Beijing.

On sale in bookstores, the report claims that reform is necessary and “urgent”, especially to limit the power of the Communist Party through a strengthened legal system and freer media.

Members of the National People’s Congress (NPC) should be directly elected by the people—the current system of delegate selection should be phased out in favour of members chosen by local communities through competitive elections as well. And the NPC should also have a direct role in framing the budget.

The media should be allowed to develop more independently from the party and its propaganda ministry, which oversees the press and dictates the news agenda.

“Though the news media are under the party, which makes it impossible for them to be totally independent,” they should have some power to stand against the party and governments to fulfill their responsibilities, the report said.

Without significant political reform, China’s economy would become less efficient and productive, foremost because of the widespread corruption due to government interference in the economy.

The report also shows great concern for the growing social unrest which reached 87,000 incidents in 2005 as a result of corruption among local officials who deny people fundamental civil rights.

The debate over democratic reform is also growing within the ranks of the Communist Party.

Addressing a workshop attended by delegates from the Party's Organisation Department in Beijing on Monday, President Hu Jintao urged members to stick to the direction of reform.

Xi Jinping, a member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau, echoed the president’s remarks, inviting his fellow leaders to focus on efficiency, moral integrity but also “public trust.”

Analysts observe that in March the NPC will hold its annual session in which it will choose a new government.

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