Scholars and lawyers urge Chinese rulers towards political reforms

Zhang Qianfan's petition speaks to Communist Party leadership
Zhang Qianfan's petition speaks to Communist Party leadership
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MORE than 70 prominent Chinese scholars and lawyers have urged the country’s new Communist Party leaders to undertake moderate political reforms, including separating the party from government.

The petition drafted by Peking University law professor Zhang Qianfan calls on the party to rule according to the constitution, protect freedom of speech, encourage private enterprise and allow for an independent judicial system.

It also calls for the people to be able to elect their own representatives without interference from the Communist Party.

Mr Zhang said there was an urgent need for change to better address the widespread problems the country faces, such as social inequity, abuse of government powers and corruption.

“China runs the risk of revolution and chaos if it does not change,” he said.

The document echoes some of the requests made in Charter 08, a 2008 manifesto that made a direct call for an end to single-party rule and other democratic reforms. The manifesto landed its lead architect, dissident writer Liu Xiaobo, in prison for inciting subversion.

The petition, released on Christmas Day, adopts a milder tone, asking the party leadership to rule within existing laws.

Mr Zhang said yesterday: “We hope it can be accepted by the government and will kick off conversations between the government and the people and among the public.”

The petition is the latest effort by Chinese intellectuals to push for political reform in a country that many believe is in urgent need of change. Mr Zhang said he wants to build consensus among people from various factions with often conflicting views.

“Though the people are disgusted by many social injustices, they are yet to have consensus on how to reform the system that creates the injustices, and that has divided and weakened the drive for reform from the people,” reads the petition in its opening lines.