Bo Xilai

Calls for political reform renewed

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 May, 2012, 12:00am


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Political reform on the mainland should focus on limiting the power of officials and protecting people's rights, the party's mouthpiece said in prominent articles yesterday.

It is the second time the People's Daily has made such a call since rising political star Bo Xilai was swept from power as Chonqing party boss following allegations of misconduct.

In a front-page story that was followed by several articles inside, the Daily said political reform was 'an important part' of the mainland's overall reforms.

The mouthpiece reiterated that the central government would stick to the leadership of the Communist Party and not copy the Western political system.

But the articles touched on key points of modern constitutional government - the 'limitation of government power' and the 'protection of people's rights', including their right to supervise the government.

It said power and rights were two sides of the single coin of 'democratic politics'.

'Limiting power and protecting rights will ensure that the people become the masters of the state,' it said. 'Limiting power has become the starting point and end of the restructuring of the political system,'

The articles follow earlier reports calling for political reform, all carried on April 23 by three key media organisations the People's Daily, Xinhua - run directly by the State Council - and the China Youth Daily, run by the Communist Youth League, a training base for the mainland's future leaders. The articles came less than two weeks after Bo's ousting.

And last week, Xinhua issued a commentary advocating reforms at 'top level' of the political institution.

Bo's saga is unfolding at a sensitive time, just a few months ahead of a once-in-a-decade transition of power at the top of the Communist Party.

Bo was sacked as party boss of the southwestern municipality on March 15 and subsequently suspended from the party's 25-member Politburo on April 10 for 'serious discipline violations' - a mainland euphemism for graft.

His wife is also accused of taking part in the alleged murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.

Analysts said the rare and high-profile calls for more meaningful political reform by party and state media might indicate the leadership had reached some consensus on the issue in the wake of Bo's downfall.

While nearly all keynote policy speeches made by Chinese leaders have mentioned political reform, they do not elaborate on what changes are needed.

The term reform is often used solely to refer to restructuring within government institutions or the streamlining of bureaucracy.

Deep changes to the political system has been a taboo subject since the military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in 1989.

Professor Hu Xingdou, a political commentator at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said he believed a majority of top leaders might have reached some consensus on the need for change following Bo's case.

'The latest development might suggest that there will be 'some more meaningful initiatives' at the upcoming 18th party congress this autumn,' he said, referring to a meeting where the formal change in leadership will take place.

Hu said Bo's case had once again suggested that without establishing checks and balances on power, widespread corruption and other wrongdoing by top officials would only continue, threatening the party's rule and its legitimacy.