Authorities can choose the easy or hard road to change, says editor
Verna Yu and Kathy Gao
Government officials should not be afraid of initiating political reforms, as these pose the least risk for themselves and ensure the most stable political future, one of the mainland's leading liberal intellectuals said yesterday.
Wu Si, chief editor of Yanhuang Chunqiu, the most outspoken liberal magazine on the mainland, told an audience at the Hong Kong Book Fair that social change and public pressure would lead to political change whether leaders liked it or not.
But he pointed out, citing historical examples from Taiwan and the former Soviet Union, that when governments took the initiative to carry out political reforms and gave up dictatorial rules, ordinary people did not hold their past against them.
"When government-led political changes happened, not one official faced repercussions, but when people-led political change occurs - such as during revolutions - officials inevitably face repercussions," he said.
"If, in the future, China's (political) changes are government-led, we can confidently say that no one will face reprisals... (so) the authorities will benefit most from this (model)," he said.
With this in mind, officials should not feel jittery over the possibility of giving up the Communist Party's political monopoly, he added.
But if they dragged their feet and waited until protests or even revolutions erupted, things would be out of their control.
"If you block the historical trend... you lose people's hearts," he said, adding that if the political changes that were bound to happen were instigated by governments, things could progress gradually and peacefully.
Wu has controversially advocated that amnesties should be granted to corrupt officials in the model of dealing with financial bad debts in bankruptcy. He said yesterday this would be an incentive for corrupt officials to support political reforms if they knew they would not be punished for their past crimes.
In a separate interview, Wu said President Xi Jinping's nationwide, high-profile anti-corruption drive, even if popular, could cause instability and conflict within the government and the party. The root cause of corruption - unchecked power - had not been dealt with.
After Xi assumed power, he stressed the importance of targeting corrupt officials, be they "flies" or "tigers" - low or high-ranking ones. "They have targeted so many flies and tigers... but the rubbish pile which bred the flies hasn't been dealt with," Wu said. "Unchecked power can breed flies as well as tigers."