Letter says Chinese Communist Party is too powerful, warns against personality cult

While CCP leader Xi Jinping isn't named, the letter appears as he gears up to seek a third term in office.
By Gao Feng and Jia Ao for RFA Mandarin
Letter says Chinese Communist Party is too powerful, warns against personality cult Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 11, 2022.
As ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping prepares to seek an unprecedented third term in office, three veteran party members have spoken out against the ongoing centralization of power and signs of a personality cult around the general secretary.

An open letter jointly penned by CCP elders Dong Hongyi, Ma Guiquan and Tian Qizhuang calls on the party to amend its charter, deleting the phrase "the party will lead in everything," which it criticizes as granting "unlimited power" to the ruling party.

"This phrase first appeared during the Cultural Revolution on Mao Zedong's instructions so as to restore order as soon as possible ... but has no wider meaning," the letter, posted by the rights website Weiquanwang, said.

"There is no similar expression in the Marxist-Leninist classics or in the [principles of] reform and opening up [under late supreme leader Deng Xiaoping]," it said.

"The main problem country faces today is that party committees have too much power, and their reach is overly long," the letter said, accusing the CCP of mission creep and "tilling other people's land."

It hit out at the party's disciplinary arm, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), for refusing to publicize details of officials' assets.

It said CCP officials earn far more than many ordinary Chinese, and the situation has "seriously affected the party's credibility, but they cannot see it."

Delegates to local People's Congresses were once expected to hold officials to account, but had become "bystanders" under the iron rule of local party committees, it said.

The letter slams the judiciary for its lack of independence, and for failing pursue those responsible for allowing the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan to get out of hand before reporting it to the public.

"For the party to lead everything goes against common sense and against logic," the letter said, warning that cults of personality have been linked to the rise and fall of countries.

It called for a prohibition on cults of personality around Chinese leaders, with corresponding sanctions and punitive measures.

"Otherwise, cult of personality is likely to make a comeback, and the tragedy of the Cultural Revolution may be repeated," the letter said.

Danger of retaliation

Weiquanwang said the three letter-writers are now in danger of official retaliation.

"All three are now under strict surveillance and may be in personal danger at any time," the post said. "But they are prepared."

"We will continue to monitor [their] situation closely."

Tian, a retired writer from Handan city, reported Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region party secretary Liu Ning to the CCDI in April for allegedly encouraging a personality cult around him.

He told RFA on Friday that he stands ready to fight any attempt to prosecute him over the letter.

"The state security police sent me a message accusing me of colluding with foreign forces," Tian told RFA on Friday. "I told them they have to show evidence."

"I will be prepared," he said. "If they really go after me, I will begin an immediate hunger strike. I've been tired of living for some time now."

He said the CCP's insistence on controlling all aspects of life in China was "unreasonable, unconventional, unscientific, and not conducive to the development of human civilization."

Ma Guiquan confirmed the letter was authentic to RFA on Thursday, but said he wasn't involved in publishing it online.

Repeated calls to Dong Hongyi and Tian Qizhuang's cell phones rang unanswered on Thursday night.

Ma, 76, said he was well aware of the likely consequences of signing the letter.

"Under normal circumstances, a CCP member should be able to proffer advice to an organization without any problem if they act as an ordinary citizen," Ma told RFA. "But if circumstances change, it will be another matter."

He said he thought the changes requested in the letter were "nothing special, and not very stringent requirements."

'Cult of personality'

Beijing-based political commentator Hua Po said Xi is concentrating power in his own hands to keep the party in power, and unified, but risks tipping over into a personality cult.

"The boundary between authoritative rule and the cult of personality is a fluid one," Hua said. "If a leader becomes well established, people in the lower ranks may start to praise and deify him."

"Then the leader may risk losing his sense of sense, and then, if he makes a mistake, it won't be a minor mistake but a major disaster for the country and its people," he said.

Feng Chongyi, an academic at the University of Technology Sydney, said the growing cult of personality around Xi is linked to the CCP leader's removal of presidential term limits in March 2018, paving the way for him to remain in office indefinitely.

"I can only hope that there remain some people in the upper echelons of the party who will uphold party discipline and the law of the land," Feng said. 
"Under the Chinese system, public opinion is neither here nor there, because they don't need the popular vote."

"The state protects these thugs who are trying to eliminate all and any dissenting voices."

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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Michael R Betzer
Aug 27, 2022 09:48 PM

Astounding! This letter sounds like something out of the "Hundred Flowers" campaign of 1956.

Aug 29, 2022 10:11 PM

China has a lot of brave proponents of liberalism, as we saw with Tiananmen Square.

It was my hope, coming from "the West" (better referred to as the "Best Practices" <such as they are> system) and doing business in China that China would liberalize and become a strong pillar for universal freedom. If it had, the "Best Practices" system would welcome it openly. Instead, China is well along to becoming outright fascist. It is so sad. Everything has rotted under Xi, he needs to go. Good luck brave people in overcoming Xi's evil! I wish you well, I fear you will suffer for it.