State-run press issues rare call for political overhaul
In an unusual move, three leading mainland media outlets have published a series of commentaries calling for political reform amid the unfolding scandal surrounding Bo Xilai's downfall.
The People's Daily, the ruling Communist Party's mouthpiece, the official Xinhua news agency - run directly by the State Council - and the China Youth Daily, run by the Communist Youth League, a training base for China's future leaders, all joined the chorus for reform.
Analysts say the move might indicate that the top leaders have reached some consensus on the issue, a controversial topic since the military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in 1989.
'It is surely a concerted action ordered by the top leadership, which has also revealed that they, or a majority of them have reached some consensus on the need for political reform following Bo Xilai's case,' said Professor Hu Xingdou , a political commentator at Beijing Institute of Technology.
Bo was sacked as party boss of the southwestern municipality of Chongqing last month and subsequently suspended from the party's 25-member Politburo for 'serious discipline violations' - a mainland euphemism for graft.
His wife, Gu Kailai , has been placed under investigation for the alleged murder of a British businessman - a scandal that came to light when Bo's right-hand man fled to the US consulate in Chengdu and reportedly asked for asylum.
The People's Daily published four articles, each written by a different think-thank, including the Central Party School, on its opinion page. Xinhua and the China Youth Daily published similar commentaries.
None made any direct reference to Western-style political reform, such as democracy and freedom of the press, but they all acknowledged that China was at a crossroads and urgently required all-round restructuring of its systems, including its political system.
One People's Daily commentary, with a headline saying that only reform will secure China's future, called for 'deepening political reform and ensuring that the people are the masters [of the country]'.
Another said 'we need to seek a breakthrough in key areas [of reform]' and a third said that 'reform has only one purpose and that is to serve the people's interests'.
The Xinhua commentary said that China's reform had reached a stage similar to 'assaulting fortified positions'.
The China Youth Daily commentary said that reform should be 'of the people, by the people and for the people' - echoing former US president Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address.
'The masses should be the subject of the reform,' it said, dismissing the idea that reform should be initiated and designed by the leadership.
The saga surrounding Bo's ouster 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.