A veteran Chinese democracy campaigner and founding member of a banned opposition party has warned the new administration of president Xi Jinping that it risks a brutal end to its hold on power in the absence of political reform.
Wuhan-based activist Qin Yongmin, who served a lengthy jail term for subversion after he helped found the banned China Democracy Party (CDP), called on the new generation of leaders under Xi to enter into "peaceful dialogue" with Chinese citizens, or risk the fall of the regime in a manner similar to that of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu.
"As the last dictatorial regime, if China is unwilling to learn lessons from the rest of the world, and persists in taking its own path, then those in power will pay an extremely cruel price for it," Qin said in an interview on Tuesday.
"They should learn a lesson from the mistakes made by Romania, Libya, and Syria," he said.
Qin said China's human rights situation is in a state of "unprecedented brutality," with reports of violent, forced evictions emerging around the country every day.
"Taking as our starting point the need for constitutional government in China, we must stand up and demand that [the leadership] begin a process of dialogue [with the people]," he said.
"Only then will it be able to guarantee a peaceful transition of power ... or a violent transformation may ensue," said Qin who was released from prison on Nov. 29, 2010 after serving a 12-year term for "incitement to subvert state power."
Hainan-based rights activist Liu Xinglian agreed with Qin's assessment.
"We should think about all the conflict that is going on in Chinese society at the moment ... we are trying to ensure that our basic rights are respected," Liu said.
"The international momentum is towards universal values at the moment, and such a world view requires the leadership to realize that ... huge social upheaval will result from the intensification of conflicts [we see currently]," he said.
"This should encourage the leadership to sit down with the people and enter into a peaceful dialogue to address the issue," Liu added.
The 57-year-old Qin is a veteran dissident who was initially sentenced to eight years in prison for "counterrevolutionary propaganda and subversion" in the wake of the Democracy Wall movement in 1981.
A contemporary of exiled dissident Wei Jingsheng, Qin served a further two years' "re-education through labor" in 1993 after he penned a controversial document titled "Peace Charter."
By 1998, Qin was the editor of the China Human Rights Observer newsletter, and one of a number of political activists who attempted to register the China Democracy Party (CDP).
Aside from Qin, Hangzhou-based CDP founder Wang Youcai and Beijing-based Xu Wenli received 11-year and 13-year jail terms respectively for being linked to the opposition party. Both were later exiled to the United States on medical parole.
The warnings from democracy campaigners come ahead of a state visit to the United States by President Xi Jinping, who will meet President Barack Obama for two days of bilateral talks in early June, the first between the two leaders since Xi took over as China's president in March.
Aggressive rhetoric and missile launches from North Korea, concerns over China-based cyberattacks on U.S. companies and agencies, and appreciation of China's currency the yuan are likely to be on the table, analysts said. Washington may also raise the issue of tensions in the South China Sea.
Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.