Beijing may not be embracing open democracy but that doesn't mean liberal voices inside the party have given up the cause. In yet another sign that party reformists have started a fresh round of the old debate about whether it's time for the mainland to push its three-decade reform programme to a deeper, more political level, the Study Times - the weekly newspaper run by the influential Central Party School - carried a front-page article this week stressing the necessity of political reform for the country's lasting economic success. The article, with the headline, 'Political Reform is What People Want', echoed Premier Wen Jiabao's bold call last month for the country's political system to be liberalised and more rights granted to its people. 'Among all reforms, political reform is of critical importance and marks the decisive step along the road,' the article, written by Central Party School scholar Hou Shaowen, said. 'The country will have a bright future if we succeed in pushing political reform ... otherwise, the fruits of economic reform will be lost and the goal of modernisation cannot be achieved. Going against the people's will would lead the reform to fail.' The article is being seen as another round of the political discussion stirred up by Wen's eyebrow-raising speech in Shenzhen last month. It sides firmly with the premier, saying that only political reform can save the country from problems ranging from an overconcentration of power to grave social inequalities. Wen's remarks were played down by mainstream state media in what was seen as an effort by party conservatives to contain his influence, but were relished by party reformists and liberal publications. The Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily and the Beijing-based Caixin magazine backed Wen. The more orthodox Guangming Daily argued that Western-style democratic values cannot be foisted upon Beijing. The liberal voice from the respected Study Times therefore heartened Bao Tong , who was director of the political reform bureau before he was ousted with party leader Zhao Ziyang in 1989, when the student-led Tiananmen pro-democracy movement was crushed. Reform-minded leaders such as Hu Yaobang and Zhao advocated both economic and political reform in the early 1980s. But fledgling political reforms and plans to separate the functions of party and government were abandoned in the aftermath of the June 4 crackdown. 'Although this is just one lonely voice, this is a very good thing,' Bao said. 'This indicates that Premier Wen's remarks have resonated among scholars.' But Bao said he was frustrated that the party's commitment to political reform had not progressed beyond talk. At every National People's Congress, top leaders paid lip service to political reform without the resolve to make real changes, he said. Hu Xingdou , a political science professor at Beijing University of Science and Technology, said: 'There are people within the party who recognise the need for political reform but we lack people who have the courage to push forward the plans. They have their hands tied because of their worries over stability. But the more they try to rein it in, the more unstable things tend to become.'