08/19/2014, 00.00
CHINA
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To stop corruption, the party must act within the limits of the constitution

by Bao Tong
Popular sovereignty, public opinion, and an independent judiciary as brakes on the absolute power of the Party are dreams "worth having", the great statesman writes. The charter is legitimate on paper but its spirit died in the Tiananmen Square bloodbath. Courtesy of Radio Free Asia.

Beijing (AsiaNews/RFA) - In my writings on the fight against corruption and the rule of law, I said that the [ruling] Chinese Communist Party should be curbed by three things: by the sovereignty of the people, by public opinion and oversight, and by judicial independence.

Some people said: "Bao Tong is dreaming." But I think this is a dream worth having.

Others said my dream is pretty impossible. But not necessarily, because these are common tensions, and people must live out their lives in this world pulled every which way by countless obligations. It's no different. In a republic, what public servant has the right to stop the people from voting or supervising government?

What member of such a polity has the right to stop the mouths of the others? And who dares to defy the law there?

Under a republican system, rotten apples also exist, but once they are spotted, the three curbs must come into play, because everyone suddenly starts making a big fuss.

With such curbs in place, people don't have to worry about systemic corruption turning the entire barrel rotten. Loopholes always exist, but they can be fixed as soon as someone turns their attention to them.

However, if there is some kind of brute force which is allowed to destroy the efficacy of these checks and balances, and that force is more powerful than all other forces, then we are in serious trouble.

Limits of the Constitution

Fortunately for us Chinese, while the Communist Party is considered the highest authority, the party doesn't consider itself above the laws of the land and the Constitution; indeed its own constitution dictates that it "must act within the scope of the Constitution and the law"!

In theory, therefore, the three checks and balances shouldn't be a problem in China. Our Constitution proclaims that China is a republic in which all power belongs to the people, with an elected government, whose people have freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and whose courts exercise independent judicial power.

So assuming that the Communist Party walks its talk, and doesn't try to pass one thing off as another, and stays within the limits of the Constitution and the law, we shouldn't be seeing a steady stream of tigers and flies being born on the fertile earth of our institutions.

So actually, it's not necessarily impossible to curb the Communist Party. At least it's possible to envisage such curbs. After all, it shouldn't be any harder than getting the party to stick to its own Constitution.

It was the brainchild of the Chinese communists to add such a clause into their Constitution. The Comintern Constitution has no such provision. In its early years, Communist Parties were all like Mao [Zedong]; they were all the product of Leninism and had no respect for any law. So traditionally, parties joining up with Comintern lacked such a clause as well.

It was the Chinese Communist Party that had the foresight [to add one.] That was in 1982, nearly 40 years after the dissolution of Comintern, and five years after the death of Mao. The Cultural Revolution was politically bankrupt, so the party consciously added this clause: the fruit of bitter experience.

'Legitimacy clause'

[Former premiers] Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, along with [President Xi Jinping's father] Xi Zhongxun went to painstaking lengths ahead of the 12th Party Congress to leave behind a valuable inheritance.

In truth, this clause should be known as the "legitimacy clause." Because the party can't rely forever on its political predecessors, nor the barrel of a gun, to grant itself legitimacy.

Unfortunately, this legitimacy clause now exists in letter only. Its spirit is dead, mainly thanks to the massacre perpetrated by Deng Xiaoping on June 4, 1989.

In spite of all this, the legitimacy clause remains in the Constitution: it can't be deleted. Nobody would dare. The special legacy of the 12th Party Congress has already blazed out a good, straight trail for those who came after.

We who follow in their footsteps should recognize this legacy, and take it forward.

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