Four Things We Shouldn't Do

A former premier's aide lays out guidelines for political reform in China.
By Bao Tong
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Chinese Communist Party leaders wave at the closing ceremony of the 18th Party Congress in Beijing, Nov. 14, 2012.
Chinese Communist Party leaders wave at the closing ceremony of the 18th Party Congress in Beijing, Nov. 14, 2012.

Some people believe that political reform in China will be difficult.

Everything is difficult at the beginning. Actually, the way I see it, as long as the [ruling Chinese] Communist Party can begin with the four following "abolitions," then things will go very well.

They should abolish: any interference and meddling by Party political and legal affairs committees in judicial affairs, all censorship of books and newspapers by the Party's propaganda department, Party management of the recruitment system for civil servants and its encroachment on the powers of the national bodies charged with regulating elections, and the leadership powers of Party core groups in all government departments.

Meddling in judicial affairs

China's civil rights record is at its nadir. This wiping of the floor with civil rights is the result of stability maintenance. The stability maintenance HQ is located in the political and legal affairs committee [at the national level].

China mass produces miscarriages of justice; they are our specialty.

The judiciary lacks independence and is joined at the hip with law enforcement agencies, giving rise to an efficient industry for the manufacture of trumped up charges and fake cases.

The political and legal affairs committees are an assembly line for miscarriages of justice. Due legal process is not within the Party's remit.

The Party has no powers of investigation, of detention, nor of interrogation under torture, nor does it have the right to hold trials or access court documents. If these committees are not abolished, China will have no rule of law.


There also exists in China a system for censoring books and newspapers that violates the Constitution and existing laws. This illegal system is implemented by the Party's central propaganda department.

The Party determines the standards by which the poisonous weeds are distinguished from the fresh flowers, just as it is in charge of delineating what should be kept secret and who is an enemy.

This illegal system strips the people of their freedoms of belief, expression, publication and of freedom of information. It obstructs the flow of information in society and affects public activities.

Through the organizations that it controls, this system frequently rewrites the news and makes up history, poisoning and hoodwinking our youth.

I hope that in future, the propaganda department will turn over a new leaf, and begin exerting itself to protect freedom of expression, of publication, of the press and the Internet, so as to bring about a genuine blooming of the hundred flowers, and a genuine debate among the hundred schools of thought.

Control of civil service, elections

China is a republic without freely contested elections. It operates a system by which the Party controls civil servants, and under which the right of its citizens to vote and contest elections and to supervise and remove officials have been taken from them.

Under this system, the country has no way of enacting a just law on civil servants. The Party's organization department isn't committed to promoting a genuine electoral system, nor a civil service free from Party control.

This has been its main failing. Let us hope it will learn a lesson from the past.

Party core groups

There are Party core groups inside all Party committees and all government departments at every level, who divide up the work of government departments and infringe on the authority of the head of state.

This is illegal. They should return once more to the legitimate clauses of the Party's constitution as decided by the 13th Party Congress [in 1987] and abolish these Party core groups in every government department.

The 'legitimacy clause'

The above points are not suggestions; they are demands. And they aren't just my demands, or those of a number of other people; I believe they are the demands of the Constitution, and of the law. I hope that our friends in the judiciary and the legislature will enlighten me if I have misunderstood or distorted the law.

People have brought up the issue of the Communist Party's legitimacy ever since the Cultural Revolution [1966-1976]. The Chinese Communist Party responded to this at its 12th Party Congress. The congress passed a resolution called the Party Constitution, which stipulates: "The Party must carry out its activities within the limits of the law, and of the Constitution." For the sake of brevity, let me call this the "legitimacy clause."

The legitimacy clause is the realistic basis upon which the Chinese Communist Party acts. If it is implemented, then the Party's legitimacy is intact; if it is not, then the Party's legitimacy is extinguished.

It was inscribed into the Party's constitution by the hand of [top propagandist] Deng Liqun, under the direction of [late former premier] Hu Yaobang. Now, Hu Yaobang is dead, but Deng Liqun is still with us as a witness.

During the time when [ousted former premier] Zhao Ziyang was directing the work of the Central Committee, he practiced what he preached, and spared no effort. It was he who initiated the handling of cases by the government with no interference from the Party leadership, and he who set the precedent of non-interference in the arts and in cultural matters. He also made proposals at a seminar once for a national civil service system.

As for the abolition of Party core groups, this was brokered by Song Pinghe and Wen Jiabao. Song told me himself at the beginning of 1989 that around half the Party core groups in government departments had already been abolished in the wake of the 13th Party Congress, and that the other half was in the process of being abolished.

After that, Zhao Ziyang fell from power, and Jiang Zemin rose to power. This is a real shame. While the legitimacy clause was never deleted, it was manipulated, so that its true meanings fell away, one after the other, until they were completely obliterated. We could call this change a process of criminalization. It is a dangerous and evil path.

Simply refrain

It is quite right of the 18th Party Congress to reject the "evil path." This is why they must implement these four abolitions, because they don't lead along the evil path, but leave it behind. They would entail a return to the right path; to a Party that acts within the law and within the Constitution.

These four things we shouldn't do need no investment; they won't increase the financial burden on the nation. They don't even call for the Communist Party to do anything. They merely require that, from now on, it refrain from doing them.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

Bao Tong, political dissident and former aide to the late ousted Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.

Comments (1)


Bao Tong's four proposals are in keeping with what any civilized regime in the 21st century should do if it were encumbered with a Party Propaganda Department, Party politics and law committees that monopolize the legal system and manufacture a myriad injustices nationwide every week, a Party Organization Bureau that monopolizes the selection process of government officials and business executives nationwide... But an uncivilized one-party authoritarian regime, the only regime in the G-20 other than Saudi Arabia that doesn't allow its populace to vote in elections for national leaders, will keep putting off the changes until pressured to change its authoritarian black-box ways.

Nov 29, 2012 12:15 PM





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