Political Reform Sought

The children of China’s revolutionary leaders want elections.
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A Chinese woman casts a mock vote during an event organized by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, Nov. 5, 2008.
A Chinese woman casts a mock vote during an event organized by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, Nov. 5, 2008.

A group of Chinese revolutionary offspring recently made a rare call for political reform, including a pilot run for direct elections, within the Communist Party.

According to Hong Kong media reports on Tuesday, children of former Red Army generals and high-ranking Communist officials held a forum in Beijing to voice their concerns at the end of January.

The gathering of “princelings,” as they are usually referred to, concluded that the Chinese authorities are presently bogged down in a quagmire of social crises, led by rampant corruption seen as unsustainable by the people.

Though most of the participants do not hold official posts themselves, they claim that the Communist Party now has neither the capability nor the mechanism for self-rectification.

The forum instead suggested policy reforms which included a trial run of direct elections at certain party branches, in anticipation of full-scale elections within the ruling group shortly after.

It urged China’s leadership to begin pilot elections as soon as the completion of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party, slated for autumn next year.

The participants agreed to present a written proposal to the party leadership, designating Chen Donghai as their representative to draft it.

Chen is the son of Chen Guang, a late Red Army general, who was a comrade-in-arms, but also a rival, of Marshal Lin Biao, the general who led the People's Liberation Army into Beijing in 1949.

Increased debate

Hu Xingdou, economics professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said the forum attested to an increased debate on political reform currently underway in China.

“I saw the attendant list of the conference in a newspaper, and found no heavyweights present. This means that, today, people with all [types of] backgrounds are concerned with China’s political future.”

Hu added that the call for reforms from the princelings indicates that Chinese society is becoming more diversified.

“All social groups are trying to make their voices heard before the 18th Party Congress,” Hu said.

But Hu pointed out the differences in the appeals for reform between those of the ordinary people and the princelings.

“The people want a Western-style government, but the princelings want to extend the lifespan of the current system, which their parents contributed in building.”

Concerns of turmoil

Hangzhou-based freelance writer Zan Aizong agreed with Hu’s assessment, adding that even those who wish the Communists would continue to hold power worry about possible social turmoil in transition.

“The transformation in the former Soviet Union and the current Egypt crisis testifies to the fact that universal values of democracy prevail all around the world.”

“Carrying out political reform means keeping peace, otherwise China will become the next Eastern Europe or Egypt. No one can reverse this historical trend,” Zan said.

However, Beijing-based senior journalist Gao Yu saw no signs of concession from the Chinese authorities on political reform. 

“The top priority for the government is still to prevent Egypt-style unrest or to prevent another pro-democracy movement in China, like what happened in Tiananmen Square in 1989,” Gao said.

“If Egypt-style unrest appeared in Beijing, I believe the Chinese government would respond like they did in 1989,” said Gao, referring to the bloody crackdown which resulted in hundreds of deaths.

Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated by Ping Chen. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.





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