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73 Chinese academics urge political reform in open letter

  • Staff Reporter
  • 2013-01-01
  • 11:31 (GMT+8)
The party's leaders celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Constitution of the PRC on Dec. 4 in Beijing. (Photo/Xinhua)

The party's leaders celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Constitution of the PRC on Dec. 4 in Beijing. (Photo/Xinhua)

A group of more than 70 Chinese scholars, legal experts and lawyers have penned an open letter to the government warning of a "violent revolution" if public demands for political reform continue to go unheeded.

"If reforms to the system urgently needed by Chinese society keep being frustrated and stagnate without progress, then official corruption and dissatisfaction in society will reach a critical mass and China will once again miss the opportunity for peaceful reform and slip into the turbulence and chaos of violent revolution," the letter said, adding that economic advancement in the country over the past 30 years has not been matched by political reform.

The letter outlined six major areas for reform: promoting governance under the Chinese constitution, implementing an electoral democracy, respecting the right to free speech, deepening the market economy, ensuring a truly independent judiciary and guaranteeing the validity of the constitution.

"China's 100 years of bloody and violent history — especially the painful and tragic lesson of the decade-long Cultural Revolution — show that once we go against the tide of democracy, human rights, rule of law and constitutional government, the people will suffer disaster and social and political stability will be impossible," the letter said.

The authors added that they hoped the government would not tempted by short-term benefits and that leaders would focus on the reforms the country desperately needs in the long run.

The 73 signatories include Zhang Sizhi, who defended Mao Zedong's widow Jiang Qing, as well as former Central Party School professor Du Guang, former China University of Political Science and Law president Jiang Ping, Peking University professor He Weifang and historian Zhang Lifan.

The letter began circulating on the internet earlier this month and was posted on the microblog of Zhang Qianfan, a professor of law at Peking University, though all online references to the letter have since been blocked by the censors.

According to He Qinglian, a Chinese academic in the United States, the letter's basic viewpoints are similar to that of Charter 08, the 2008 manifesto initially signed by over 350 intellectuals and human rights activists that led to the imprisonment of co-author Liu Xiaobo for "inciting subversion of state power."

The academic said she thought the authors of the letter have been very rational and deserve to be taken seriously because they clearly measured their demands to take into account the limits of what the government might find acceptable. The letter may be regarded as a test to see whether China's new generation of leaders are genuine about their promises of further reforms, she added.

On the other hand, writer Xu Jie, a close friend of Liu Xiaobo, winner of the 2010 Nobel peace prize for his democracy activism, believes the letter is not forceful enough and fails to mention sensitive political issues such as minority groups in Tibet and Xinjiang, as well as relations with Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Reuters also reported that around 65 Chinese academics in the field of law as well as human rights activists have signed a similar letter demanding top party officials divulge details of their financial assets as a means to ending corruption.

 

 

References:

Zhang Sizhi  張思之

Mao Zedong  毛澤東

Jiang Qing  江青

Du Guang  杜光

Jiang Ping  江平

He Weifang  賀衛方

Zhang Lifan  章立凡

He Qinglian  何清漣 

Xu Jie  余傑

Liu Xiaobo  劉曉波

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