In rare interview with foreign broadcaster, Wen pledges to advance democracy

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 September, 2008, 12:00am


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Premier Wen Jiabao has pledged to advance the country's democracy in a rare interview with a foreign broadcaster that touched on a range of sensitive topics, including the Tibet issue.

When asked during the interview with CNN about the lessons he had drawn from the 1989 Tiananmen Square 'problem', Mr Wen went silent for a few seconds before replying: 'I think the core of your question is about the development of democracy in China.'

This, he said, covered three areas. 'Firstly, we need to gradually improve the democratic election system so that the state power will truly belong to the people and the state power will be used to serve the people,' he said in the interview that aired last night.

Secondly, the legal system should be improved and the country be run under the rule of law. 'We need to build an independent and just judicial system,' he said.

Thirdly, he said the government should be subjected to oversight by the people, the news media and other parties.

Despite repeated calls by activists, China's leadership has described the June 4 crackdown on demonstrators as an 'incident' and many dissidents who joined the protest back then are still declined entry into the country.

Censorship on the mainland has long drawn criticism from western countries. But in the interview, Mr Wen insisted that China, like many other countries in the world, has imposed some 'proper restrictions' to uphold state security while adding that the internet on the mainland carried many postings critical of the state.

On the Tibet issue, the premier described the Dalai Lama's advocacy for a 'Greater Tibetan region' as a means to 'use religion to intervene in politics' - to separate the region from the mainland. 'Many people in the United States has no idea how big is the so-called 'Greater Tibetan' region ... [it] includes Tibet , Sichuan , Yunnan , Qinghai and Gansu , altogether five provinces and the areas it covered accounted for a quarter of China's territory,' he said.

'As long as Dalai Lama is willing to recognise Tibet as an inalienable part of China's territory and as long as the Dalai Lama gives up his separatist activities, we are willing to get in touch with him and his representatives.'

And in what appeared to be a reference to the tainted-milk scandal, Mr Wen said some companies have pursued their profits at the expense of morality. 'We would not allow economic growth at the expense of the loss of morality because such approach simply cannot sustain.'