09/07/2010, 00.00
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Shenzhen, political reforms and the ambiguities of Wen Jiabao and Hu Jintao

The Chinese President proposes political reforms for the capital of China’s modernisation but with “Chinese characteristics”. Two weeks before, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao had pleaded for political reforms; otherwise, economic modernisation would fail. Pro-democracy activists examine the issue. For some, the Chinese regime is not willing to “acknowledge internationally accepted values”.
Shenzhen (AsiaNews) – President Hu Jintao’s speeches to mark the 30 years of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone have raised more than one eyebrow among Chinese dissidents, many of whom hoped to see political reforms follow the economic reforms that began in this city. For years, inside the Chinese Communist Party, the talk has been about fighting corruption with greater grassroots controls and political reforms that would allow competent people, chosen in elections, to rise to top positions. So far, nothing has changed.

During yesterday’s celebrations, Hu said “political reforms” were urgent, but insisted that they have “Chinese characteristics”.  He also stressed that Shenzhen must be a pioneer in economic, political, cultural and social reforms.

Just two weeks earlier during a visit to Shenzhen, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said, “Without the safeguard of political reform, the fruits of economic reform would be lost and the goal of modernisation would not materialise.”

Wen’s ideas appear closer to those expressed in Charter 08, an appeal signed by thousands of pro-democracy activists whose author, Liu Xiaobo, is now purging an 11-year sentence in prison for subverting the powers of the state.

Wen said that political reform must take place to keep power in check, to allow people to criticise and monitor the performance of the government, to crack down on corruption and build a fair and just society, Guangzhou’s Southern Metropolis News said.

Another paper, the Guangmin Ribao, was less sanguine about such reforms, saying that Western democracy is not suited to China, which must find its own way.

Hu’s statement in Shenzhen thus appears to shoot down Wen’s suggestions, pushing the mainland back towards the status quo.

Beijing-based independent analyst Chen Zimin told the South China Morning Post that, “So long as the talk is about Chinese characteristics, there won't be anything new. That means” that China “is unwilling to acknowledge internationally accepted values."

For Shenzhen-based rights activist Chen Shuwei, the president stressed socialist democratic reforms.

“According to my understanding, this means democracy under the control of the Chinese Communist Party." Chen said. Thus, "It's just for show."

“They talk about the rule of law as well, but in actual fact we have never had it. So I think these reforms are fake," he said.

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