Scholars Cautiously Urge Political Reform

An open letter released on Christmas Day seeks to sway the new Party leadership towards renewed political reform, encouraged by Xi Jinping and others’ strong words against corruption and bureaucratic excesses. From Bloomberg News:

The letter, signed by 71 people and posted on the blog of Peking University law professor Zhang Qianfan, calls for the party to end its oversight of government personnel decisions, leave court decisions to judges and lawyers, and allow people to speak and assemble freely.

[…] “I don’t think society should simply wait passively for whatever comes up but we should express our ideas and try to build a social consensus,” Zhang, who helped draft the letter, said in a phone interview. “Now is a good time to do something new and if we miss such a chance then our social problems will become more serious.”

[…] “None of this is new and it’s not something that’s really against the Party’s will,” Zhang said. “They already expressed their will in the constitution or in the charter of the party itself.”

Zhang’s calculation that a gentle approach may be more productive—and less dangerous—is not universally accepted, with critics arguing that the resulting text is too watered down. From Didi Tang and Gillian Wong at the Associated Press:

The document echoes some of the requests made in Charter 08, a 2008 manifesto that made an unusually direct call for an end to single-party rule and other democratic reforms. The manifesto landed its lead architect, dissident writer Liu Xiaobo, in prison for inciting subversion — an 11-year term he is still serving.

The petition, released on Christmas Day, adopts a milder tone, asking the party leadership to rule within existing laws.

[…] Hong Kong-based Chinese free-speech activist Wen Yunchao said the requests made in the petition were sound but the style in which it was written was “too subservient.”

“It’s like they are slaves, kneeling there and writing it,” Wen said. He said the proposed changes should have been stated more directly.