Friday, 29 April 2011

Lone Voice in the Wilderness

Once again Premier Wen Jiabao is calling for political reforms and even the conservative and politically correct People's Daily issued a plea for China to tolerate dissent and criticism.

Wen said this during a speech to Chinese embassy staff and representatives of the Chinese community in Kuala Lumpur, saying China needed to carry out political, economic and judicial reforms to balance its growth.

"[China] must advance political, economic and judicial reforms, so that our superstructure [politics] will keep abreast with the development of our economic foundation," he said during his speech.

He also talked about the importance of "independent thinking" -- in an atmosphere where radical thoughts are nipped in the bud.

"The most important thing for future development is to promote independent thinking and creativity. Our country will be invincible if all of our 1.3 billion people can think independently and be creative," he said.

The timing of Wen's renewed campaign is interesting considering the authorities have still illegally detained Ai Weiwei and scores of other human rights activists and lawyers.

In addition People's Daily published an unusual commentary calling for greater tolerance of ideas and a willingness to accept criticism. The article began with a quote from French philosopher Voltaire: "I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

It criticized officials who do not tolerate dissenting views, saying "In their treatment of criticisms and suggestions, some [officials] have not only not listened to them with an open mind, but have also resorted to the charge of libel and even used their power to suppress such dissenting voices," the commentary said.

What is going on in the Communist Party of China?

Wen's speech was not reported by Chinese state media which proves the premier is out on his own saying these controversial remarks as they go completely against what National People's Congress chairman Wu Bangguo says.

Last month Wu, the party's No. 2 man said China must guard against the consequences of going towards a Western-style democracy.

Wen seems keen or desperate to show the rest of the world that there are differing opinions in China, but with no one else supporting his views he seems powerless in his push for greater reforms.

Or is he just saying these things for more window dressing? Wen was photographed earlier this week with his wife Zhang Peili, who is a well known jeweler and investor raising eyebrows. They are rarely seen together as it is thought she could damage his image as a frugal person; in the similar vein his son owns a private equity company, with reports hinting he has benefited from his princeling status.

While it's refreshing to hear Wen promote political and judicial reforms, they are only his words and no one else's.

Meanwhile the consensus of the Party continues to march on...

1 comment:

  1. i wonder why this good man is not purged by the central committee of the politburo.