Hu urges improved democracy within the Communist Party

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 July, 2009, 12:00am

President Hu Jintao renewed calls to improve democracy within the Communist Party on the eve of the ruling party's 88th birthday.

Speaking to the party's most powerful Politburo members and the Central Committee on Monday, Mr Hu said intraparty democracy must be promoted and mechanisms improved to better supervise the world's biggest political organisation.

'We must converge the wisdom and strength of the party to the utmost level, we must fully inspire the creativity and vigour of the party,' he was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

'Intraparty democracy' was much highlighted during the 17th Communist Party Congress in 2007 as a way to boost the accountability and transparency of the party's leadership.

Mr Hu's remarks came in a year laden with sensitive events such as the 20th anniversary of the crackdown on the student-led protests in Tiananmen Square.

Beijing has stepped up control on dissenting voices, especially those calling for political changes.

Last week, the mainland's most vocal advocate of political reform, Liu Xiaobo, was arrested on suspicion of inciting subversion.

Late last year, Mr Liu co-drafted Charter 08, a manifesto calling for an end to one-party rule.

In March during the annual National People's Congress, chairman Wu Bangguo said China would not copy western-style democracy.

In Monday's meeting, Mr Hu said Communist Party members should be encouraged to supervise and make suggestions on all matters concerning intraparty democracy, including efforts to clamp down on corruption within the party.

The Central Committee also announced on Monday that it would reform the appraisal system for party members by focusing more on their achievements in balancing economic and social development, and maintaining social stability.

Li Zhongjie, deputy director of the Party History Research Centre, told a press briefing yesterday that the mechanism would reduce the influence of increasing gross domestic product in assessing the performance of party officials.

Amid rampant corruption and the social uprising that follows, the party's governance has drawn public criticism.

On the internet, many are able to vent their discontent more publicly. Lu Jun, a deputy director of the urban planning bureau in Zhengzhou in Henan, recently irked the public by asking a reporter if he was 'going to speak for the party or for the people', in reply to a question about a suspected illegal land deal. Netizens hyped the incident, which finally led to Mr Lu's suspension.

The party's Organisation Department told Xinhua yesterday that membership had jumped 17-fold from 1949 to last year, to nearly 76 million members. It said more than 2.8 million new members were recruited last year, an increase of 25,000 from the year before. Recruits among students showed the biggest jump, with an increase of 71,000.

Some have argued that more young people join the party nowadays for pragmatic reasons, to secure better promotion opportunities, rather than for their ideological beliefs. Professor Li said yesterday that the young applicants were also motivated by their ambition to serve the country and society.

Party people

Party membership increased 17-fold between 1949 and 2008

Last year the membership of the Communist Party was nearly: 76m