October 23, 2010
The following interview with the Global Times took place on 15 0ctober, bit was not published:
1. Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo this year. What’s your comment on the decision of Nobel committee? Can the award be interpreted as the pressure of the Western countries on China to accelerate its political reform?
The Nobel Peace Prize has become politicized. The award is essentially Norwegian. However, it can be interpreted as pressure from the West on China to accelerate its political reform. The award was widely acclaimed in the West.
2. For decades, US and many European countries have been pressing China to adopt Western styled democratic system. But China sticks to the cautious approach while making economic progress. Why US and many other Western countries are still persistent doing it?
There are still too many people in the West who believe that their ways are the right ones and that others should adopt their political system, not withstanding its current flaws and the problems governments are having to exert authority: Washington gridlock, huge delay in forming an unstable government in the Netherlands, no new government in Belgium. Western democracy in Iraq is not succeeding and Iraq still has no new government.. However, it is very possible that China would benefit from some political reform and some democratization, with Chinese rather than Western characteristics.
3. China is also continuing its own way of political reform, including more governance transparency and the efforts to implement the rule of law. How do you think the changes have been realized and recognized by the governments in North America and Europe?
We do not perceive much political reform in China, although individual liberty has certainly improved. There is greater transparency but stricter media control and sometime the use of unnecessary and/or excessive force. The changes have not been recognized in the West.
4. How do you think of the efforts China has made in promoting human rights and political reform?
I don’t see any progress in human rights. There is an intense battle for political reform, but so far rhetoric rather then action.
5. What impact external pressure will impose on China’s political reform? How US and European countries can better help China advance political reform?
Western impact is usually negative. The only way to help is to advise Beijing, illustrating the advantages to China..
Beijing’s primary objective is to maintain stability. There is a battle going on ‘behind the ‘Zhongnanhai curtain’. The conservative view appears to be that democratization and political reform risk destabilization.
Hu Jintao mentioned ‘Minzhu’ (democracy) over 60 times in his speech to the 2007 17th national congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). China will “expand people’s democracy and ensure that they are masters of the country,” the President Hu told more than 2 000 delegates in a speech broadcast live on television and radio. He also stated that the CPC will “expand intra-Party democracy to develop people’s democracy” by increasing transparency in Party affairs and “opposing and preventing arbitrary decision-making by an individual or a minority of people.”
Hu said that China must improve its institutions of democracy, diversify its forms and expand its channels, and carry out democratic elections, decision-making and administration and oversight in accordance with the law to guarantee the people’s rights to be informed, to participate, to be heard and to oversee. with economic and social development to adapt to the growing enthusiasm of the people for participation in political affairsThe President called on CPC organizations at all levels and all Party members to “take the lead in upholding the authority of the Constitution and the law.” And “As an important part of China’s overall reform, political restructuring must be constantly deepened.”
There are little obvious signs to indicate that Hu Jintao’s statements and promises have been fulfilled.
There was a public debate among scholars, prior to the 17th Congress, but further debate was suppressed after the publication of China 08. It was revived by Wen Jiabao’s Shenzhen speech, when he said that China needed to protect the legal and democratic rights of the people, resolve the problems of a centralized power that lacks checks and balances, tackles corruption and facilitate criticizing the government. Echoing Deng Xiaoping, he warned that, “If we don’t push forward with reform the only road ahead is perdition.” Hu Jintao’s remarks in Shenzhen shortly afterwards, struck a more cautions tone.
23 CCP veterans have now written an open letter calling for an end to the country’s restrictions on freedom of speech. The letter says freedom of expression is promised in the Chinese constitution but not allowed in practice. They want people to be able to freely express themselves on the internet and want more respect for journalists. They make eight demands for change: Dismantle system where media organisations are all tied to higher authorities; Respect journalists, Accept their social status; Revoke ban on cross-province supervision by public opinion; Abolish cyber-police; control Web administrators’ ability to delete/post items at will; Confirm citizens’ right to know crimes and mistakes committed by ruling party; Launch pilot projects to support citizen-owned media organisations; Allow media and publications from Hong Kong and Macau to be openly distributed; and Change the mission of propaganda authorities, from preventing the leak of information to facilitating its accurate and timely spread.
We await the reactions from the 17th Congress of the CCP Central Committee which has just opened.
I close with four suggestions:
• Freedom of expression is essential if innovation – an objective of the government – is to be promoted.
• A free media can help fight corruption. It can be prevented from developing into a Western-style media.
• Excessive individual cases of violence, by local officials, needs to be stamped out
• Human rights should be treated as part of the rule of law, not as a separate, emotive issue.
We now await to see the ultimate results of the award of the Nobel Prize to the imprisoned Liu Xiaobo.Author : Stanley Crossick