POLITICAL reforms, though still considered taboo in China, must be accelerated to avoid setbacks in economic reforms and eliminate the chronic problem of official corruption, according to a Beijing University scholar. The bold call for ''political reforms above economic reforms'' was made in Hong Kong yesterday by Professor Gao Fang, Director of the Institute of International Affairs at the People's University in Beijing. ''If political reform remains stagnant in the long-run, economic reform will certainly suffer a blow. ''Even if the economy has grown, the problem of corruption will not be eradicated. It will even worsen to the extent that the authority of the ruling party and the Government will be undermined,'' he told a three-day symposium on China's development organised by Chu Hoi College. Professor Gao warned that the Communist Party might lose its regime if it failed to learn a lesson from the demise of its communist allies in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The party had said the former Soviet regime disintegrated because it had tried to bring in democracy before liberalising its economy. Professor Gao disagreed. He attributed the Soviet downfall to its failure to introduce political reforms to help eliminate feudalistic systems including the centralisation of power among individuals, life tenure system and handpicking successors. He said those feudalistic hangovers had remained on the mainland because political reform had fallen far behind economic reforms since 1978. This has led to a worsening of problems occurring in the course of economic reform such as profiteering and corruption, he noted. Professor Gao said the improvement of legislation would not work if there was no democracy and supervision by the people and public opinion. ''If [cases related to] senior cadres and their family members cannot be dealt with by law, it is still a system of rule by individuals and not rule by law,'' he said. On the other hand, Professor Gao argued that the past 14 years of economic reforms had achieved progress because the ruling regime did venture on political changes such as collective leadership, people's congress system and rural reform. Those changes were not enough, he said, adding malpractices such as the concentration of power in the hands of a few were still prevalent.