Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Old Guard Calls for Change

The Chinese government continues its desperate defensive spin with regards to Nobel prize winner Liu Xiaobo. The regime's line is that the West that is weak and trying to impose its values on China which it believes is wrong and labels it as colonial.
But if you look at the facts, the Chinese government has jailed Liu for his co-authoring of Charter 08 in which he asks that everyone have access to universal rights -- something that is even stated in China's 1982 constitution that says Chinese people should have freedom of speech and press.
And this is what a group of former high-ranking political and cultural officials is pointing out in an open letter to the top governing body that was published online.
They are calling for the abolition of media censorship and that media products and books from Hong Kong and Macau be made openly available in the mainland.
The letter says the lack of free speech is a "scandal of the world history of democracy". It even cites Hong Kong as a good example of a place that enjoys freedom of speech and publication.

The open letter starts by citing article 35 of the Chinese Constitution (the 1982 edition) that says all citizens have freedoms of speech, of publication, of assembly, of association and of demonstration. But it points out that for 28 years these constitutional rights have existed only in words but never really in practice.
What is most interesting is that the group of 23 well-known people condemns the Communist Party's central propaganda department as a "black hand" with the power to even censor Premier Wen Jiabao whose speech about the need for political reforms in late August in Shenzhen was not reported on by Xinhua.

"What right does the Central Propaganda Department have to place itself even above the Communist Party Central Committee, and above the State Council?" the letter asked. Wen heads the State Council.

It called for new laws for news and publication and that the media should gain its "relative independence" from direct control by the party of state bodies. The proposals include the media should have protection and support to report on mass demonstrations and official corruption, that the people should have the right to know all the wrong doings of officials, and no more deleting of material online unless it really is sensitive instead of blanketing anything and everything. It notes the mainland's censorship system lags behind Britain's by 315 years and France by 129 years. Who knows how they came up with these numbers.

Nevertheless, the 23 signatories include Hu Jiwei, former editor-in-chief of People's Daily, Li Rui, former deputy head of the CCP Organization Department and former secretary of Mao Zedong, Yu You, former deputy editor-in-chief of the China Daily, and other former heads of military, cultural and political advisory departments. Most of these people are in their 90s, which makes it their last gasp in voicing their opinions to the government.

While they can't be politically criticized, how much sway do these people have? Would anyone really listen to them?

Many other former officials have written similar letters trying to create attention before, but nothing is really done.

Sadly it's another cry in the wilderness that at first sounds shocking, but then quickly disappears with the wind.

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