Former Politburo member Bao Tong says the nation took the wrong path and is paying a heavy price for it China's political reforms have stalled, and to this day former Politburo member Bao Tong believes the nation took the wrong turn in 1989. If it had embarked on political reforms 13 years ago in response to demonstrations by workers and students, he is convinced that China would be a lot more prosperous than it is today. 'Economically, there has been tremendous change,' Mr Bao, 71, said at his home on the outskirts of Beijing, where he lives under house arrest with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and teenage granddaughter. 'But the process actually began 50 years ago. In the past 50 years, China's development [has] come one big circle. In the 1950s, we began talking about economic reforms that were only implemented in the 1980s. 'But the party veered off the path and we went from non-reform to reform, from left to right.' As head of the Communist Party's political reform working group in the run-up to the June 4 crackdown, Mr Bao was helping Zhao Ziyang, who was then general secretary, to build the foundations of a multi-party democracy. But student protests that year led to internal conflict within the party, and the conservative elements won. Instead of initiating political reforms, the party purged Mr Zhao and Mr Bao. Mr Zhao was put under house arrest, where he remains to this day. Mr Bao served a seven-year jail term, and although he is technically free, he is guarded by public security officers round the clock. Few visitors are allowed to see him. His only privilege - aside from the 500 yuan (HK$470) monthly pension he receives from the party - is the right to take phone calls from the outside world. Even then, his calls are monitored by the Ministry of Security. He laments what he sees as lost opportunities for change. 'Politically we haven't seen any change at all,' he says. 'Basically it's been Communist Party rule and nothing else.' As head of the Communist Party working group on political reforms in 1987, Mr Bao was at the forefront of efforts to embrace change as the main goal during that year's 13th party congress. Just as the former Soviet Union was about to do away with communism and end the Communist Party's monopoly on power, Mr Bao and Mr Zhao were leading a similar movement in China. Mr Bao's proposals then included calling for multiparty democracy and direct elections - and to this day he remains steadfast to those beliefs. Mr Bao joined the party in 1949 after graduating from high school in Shanghai. He says: 'Even back in 1953, we were experimenting with direct elections. Today ... we still haven't achieved it.' After the elections of 1953, however, chairman Mao Zedong decided that it was the Communist Party that should monopolise power and he decreed that only the party could nominate candidates for elections. 'Though chairman Mao cancelled multiparty elections, the nation was able to create the foundations of a democratic China back in 1953,' Mr Bao said. 'China in early 1953 was far more democratic than today. So in the past 50 years, we've actually gone backwards politically.' He is equally unimpressed with the reforms the party has adopted, such as ex-president Jiang Zemin's Three Represents Theory. Many believe Three Represents helps advance the party as a political force that represents all classes in society, not just the proletariat. 'Three Represents isn't new,' argues Mr Bao. 'It is based on ideals espoused a long ago.' Mr Bao says establishing a multiparty system and holding direct elections is the only way ahead for China. 'People formed the Communist Party in 1921 because they said the party could provide a society where there is more freedom and equality than in a capitalist system. We must not only return to the ideals of 1921 but we must also throw away many of the wrong notions of 1921, including the notion that capitalism is wrong. 'We must honour what we promised. What it promised was freedom and democracy for all.'