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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Wen Jiabao promises political reform for China

October 6, 2010

Wen Jiabao, the Chinese prime minister, has
promised that China will carry out political
reform and acknowledged that the need for
democracy and freedom in China is "irresistible".
By Malcolm Moore in Shanghai
The Telegraph (UK)
October 4. 2010

In a rare interview, aired on CNN on Sunday, Mr
Wen said: "I believe I and all the Chinese people
have such conviction that China will make
continuous progress and the people's wishes and
need for democracy and freedom are irresistible.
I hope you will be able to gradually see the continuous progress of China."

He added: "In spite of some resistance I will
advance within the realm of my capabilities political restructuring."

Asked about censorship, the 68-year-old Mr Wen
added: "I believe freedom of speech is
indispensable for any country, a country in the
course of development and in a country that has
become strong." He insisted that there was
freedom to criticise the Chinese government on
the internet, where he said he had often seen
views aired that were sharply critical of officials.

The Communist Party has ruled without opposition
in China since 1949, imprisoning scores of
political activists and dissidents. While China
made vital economic reforms in the late 1970s to
allow a more market-based economy, the Party has
not yet made accompanying political reforms.

Mr Wen added the caveat that any reforms now
"must be conducted within the range allowed by
the constitution and the laws. So that the country will have a normal order."

The interview marks the third time in recent
weeks that Mr Wen has raised the topic of political reform.

At the beginning of September, Mr Wen said on a
visit to Shenzhen that "Without the safeguard of
political reform, the fruits of economic reform
would be lost and the goal of modernisation would
not materialise". He also called for a loosening
of the "excessive political control" of the Communist party.

In his speech to the United Nations General
Assembly last week, Mr Wen said that "While
deepening economic restructuring, we will also
push forward political restructuring." In the
past, the Communist party has repeatedly promised
political reforms but has failed to deliver any
substantive changes. The party also often uses
the phrase "democracy" simply to refer to greater
public participation in decision-making, without universal suffrage.

Notions in the run up to the 17th National Party
Congress in October 2007 that there might be
reforms were dashed when the government chose to
focus on stability and security in the run-up to
the Beijing Olympic games and the 60th
anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China by Mao Zedong.

However, Mr Wen's decision to once again air the
topic, and to a major international television
network, may confirm that reform is back on the government agenda.

Some observers have commented that there may be a
split between Mr Wen and Hu Jintao, the Chinese
president, over the issue. Mr Hu has not recently
mentioned any prospect of political reform.

"[Mr Wen] admitted there is inner party
disagreement over political reform," said Victor
Shih, a professor of Chinese politics at Northwestern University.

Nevertheless, by airing the idea of political
reform in public, Mr Wen has opened up space for
a debate in the Chinese media. Hu Shuli, the
pioneering editor of Century Weekly, a Chinese
magazine, recently argued that China "cannot
wait" any longer for reforms to its political
system. "The sense of personal independence is
growing among our citizens, as is consciousness
of their rights and the appetite for
participation in current affairs," she said.
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