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» 04/01/2009
CHINA
Party official issues urgent call for democratic reforms
Within the Communist Party itself, a growing number of voices are calling for political reforms, less censorship, and room for dissent. They are applying pressure to the leaders, who want to talk only about the economy. The police "sequester" a signer of Charter 08 for hours.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - China will be making a serious mistake if it concentrates only on economic problems, and sidelines the debate over greater democracy. This is the opinion of Yu Keping, a high-ranking official in the Communist Party and the deputy director of the Central Compilation and Transition Bureau, an important CP think tank, published today in China Comment, a biweekly magazine published by Xinhua.

Yu does not contest the centrality of the CP, nor the necessity of order, obedience, and centralization in favor of central power, but he maintains that "incremental democracy characterised by some sort of radical reform" is needed.

Although he does not suggest any specific reforms, the position is important because it stands apart from the official one, repeated recently by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who is focusing on dealing with the economic crisis and is setting aside any discussion of reform. Wen says that Western democracy is not suitable for the country, and that democratic change must have Chinese characteristics to reflect the country's situation, without explaining what these "Chinese characteristics" are.

A growing number of experts observe that China must resume its journey toward political and democratic reforms. At the beginning of March, Bao Tong, the personal secretary and friend of former prime minister Zhao Ziyang, sent a letter to the Chinese parliament illustrating possible reforms (see Bao Tong: Absolute power of the Party will suffocate the people and the economy).

In February, a group of old members of the CP wrote an open letter to President Hu Jintao and to the Permanent Committee of the Party, calling for the reconstitution of a commission to study political reforms, like the one instituted in 1986 and headed by Zhao Ziyang, which was dissolved in 1989 after the massacre in Tiananmen Square, and fell into disgrace together with Zhao. The authors (including Li Rui, the former secretary of Mao Zedong, former propaganda chief Zhu Houze, former media industry director Du Daozheng, the lawyer Zhang Sizhi, and the economist Gao Shanquan) also advise loosening censorship of the media and permitting an organized opposition, in the conviction that only greater democracy and transparency can permit overcoming the economic crisis and stopping the widespread corruption.

But at the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, in March, no room was given to proposals for democratic reforms. Instead, Beijing continues to persecute any voice of dissension from the official line: yesterday, the famous writer Jiang Qisheng was taken from his home by the police, who also confiscated two computers, books, and his credit card. They interrogated him for more than six hours without any real accusation, solely because, from telephone surveillance and from correspondence, it emerged that he was writing an article to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square, something that they warned him not to do. Jiang, who was previously arrested over the protests in 1989 (in the photo) and for having written a commemorative article in 1999, is also a signer of Charter 08, the document published last December that calls upon the authorities to grant greater democracy and respect for human rights. In response, the police have interrogated and arrested many of the signers, including the dissident Liu Xiaobo, who has been detained since December.


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See also
02/24/2009 CHINA
Party divided over arresting all (or some) Charter 08 signers
12/17/2008 CHINA
Bao Tong: Beijing should explain how Charter '08 violates the law
01/10/2009 CHINA
China, new crackdown on the web. Blog site closed
03/13/2009 CHINA
Human rights award for Liu Xiaobo and for Charter 08
02/21/2009 CHINA - UNITED STATES
Charter 08 activists arrested, silenced ahead of Hillary Clinton's arrival in Beijing

Editor's choices
VATICAN
Pope: I am with the persecuted Christians of Mosul and the Middle East "May the God of peace inspire in all a genuine desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is never defeated with violence. Violence is defeated with peace." At the Sunday Angelus Francis comments on the parable of the wheat and the weeds. God is "patient" He knows "the same weeds in the end, may become good wheat". But "at the time of the harvest, that is, of judgment, the reapers will execute the order of the master separating the weeds to be burned".
CHINA - VATICAN
Beijing, seminarians desert graduation ceremony: We will not celebrate Mass with illegitimate bishops The rector of the seminary is the illegitimate bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin: Students refuse to concelebrate with him and reject Msgr. Fang Xingyao, who has participated in several illegal episcopal ordinations. The directors close the year without awarding diplomas and send students home: rumors of some courses being "suspended" in September. The precedent of 2000, when 130 young students chose fidelity to the Pope over compromise with the government.
HONG KONG-CHINA-VATICAN
Card Zen: Religious freedom and civil liberties are united, for China and Hong Kong
by Bernardo CervelleraA wide ranging conversation with the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong: the courage of Msgr. Ma Daqin, who sent a message to Pope Francis; underground Catholics are also prepared to be arrested; suspicions about Beijing’s sincerity towards possible dialogue with the Holy See. And in Hong Kong, the march for a referendum on democracy; support for "Occupy Central"; the fear of the government and arrests. Card. Zen reaffirms that religious freedom and civil liberties go hand in hand.

Dossier
by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
by Lazzarotto Angelo S.
pp. 528
by Bernardo Cervellera
pp. 240
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