Political Reform and China’s Constitution

David Bandurski of the China Media Project translates a “New Year Greeting” from liberal-leaning political journal Yanhuang Chunqiu, titled “The Constitution is a Consensus for Political Reform,” which calls out a number of sections of China’s constitution that should serve as the foundation for any significant political reform:

Political reform is about building a system in place than can check power, and that means conscientiously protecting the rights of citizens. There is much language within our Constitution that preserves human rights, and that limits the power of the state. If we compare and contrast our Constitution and our reality, we discover that the system, policies and laws currently in force create a massive gap between the Constitution and the conduct of our government. Our Constitution is essentially void.

Any nation governed by rule of law must take its constitution as the basis for the design of its political system. Making the Constitution void is not only a breach of the promise made to the Chinese people, it is also a breach of the promise made to the international community.

Without trust a nation cannot stand, and the situation must be changed with regard to this breach of promise over the Constitution. Ever since the 12th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, the CCP Charter has read: “The Party must operate within the scope of the Constitution and the law.” This is what is meant by “the Party under the law” (党在法下) . . . Achieving a “Party under the law” would avoid the occurrence of various abuses resulting from conflict between the nominal system in effect and the actual system.

The Constitution is the most basic and most important of our country’s laws (根本大法). There is no higher authority than the Constitution, and there will not, nor should there be, any controversy about promoting political reform according to the Constitution.

Just last week, on Christmas Day, a group of academics released an open letter urging the new Communist Party leadership to pursue political reform. See also recent CDT coverage of a piece in The Wall Street Journal from Russell Leigh Moses, who explores whether a new political struggle is emerging between new Communist Party chief Xi Jinping, who has indicated a desire to push through reform, and the anti-reform allies of former leader Hu Jintao.


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