- Liberal Voices from ChinaA Program for Democratic Reform
As China approaches the threshold of a new century, it must fundamentally transform itself, or it will find it impossible to further promote modernization, garner the support of the various generations and classes of its people, and be truly accepted by the civilized world.
Political reform is the matter of greatest concern for both the Chinese people and the international community. Taking the first step toward democracy is the key to China’s becoming a modern nation.
Elections for All Levels of the National People’s Congress by Universal Suffrage: The direct election of county-level representatives to the National People’s Congress (NPC) has been practiced in China for almost 20 years. Current levels of economic development, education, and political consciousness satisfy the conditions necessary for election by universal suffrage of NPC representatives above the county level. In most developing countries, the election of representatives at all levels of the legislature by universal suffrage is already the norm.
The Ninth NPC, to be formed in the spring of 1998, should regard as a pressing priority the enactment of an Election Law that would reflect the Chinese people’s desire for elections by universal suffrage and would also comply with international standards.
If constituted by free, fair, and direct elections, the National People’s Congress (which was established half a century ago) would be transformed into a modern legislature that independently exercises its power to make laws, to determine the composition of the government, [End Page 9] and to supervise the executive administration. In this way, legal channels for participating in national affairs with equal opportunity and fair competition would be created.
Freedoms of Press, Publication, and Association: In order to report on public opinion, domestic conditions, and international affairs correctly, completely, and promptly, in accordance with the norms of civilized society, individuals should be allowed independently to create, or participate in the creation of, newspapers, journals, publishing companies, news services, broadcasting stations, television stations, or other media organizations. In compliance with international practice, distribution of foreign newspapers, journals, books, audio or video products, broadcasting programs, and the like should be permitted without restrictions. Foreign media organizations should be provided with the necessary conditions for carrying out their normal professional activities in China. Foreign entities should be allowed to form public media enterprises in China or to invest in or manage Chinese media enterprises. The freedom of public multimedia communications (the World Wide Web) and other modern methods of information and communications should be protected. To achieve such objectives, current regulations prohibiting or limiting private management of, and foreign investment in, newspapers, publishing houses, printing companies, audio and video production, and broadcasting should be eased. The drafting and enactment of a News and Publication Law should be made a priority.
In order to respond in a civil and positive fashion to China’s newly formed and steadily developing political organizations, as well as to the growing diversification of society, the Chinese government should permit the exercise of the freedom to organize political and nonpolitical associations to protect the public interest or the interests of special groups. Independent labor unions, farmers’ unions, merchant guilds, student groups, professional associations, public interest organizations, religious groups, and the like should all be considered active participants in Chinese society. Political groups that seek to advance democracy and further reform should be treated as legitimate entities in an open political system. To achieve these objectives, current regulations that require associations to have governmental supervising agents should be relaxed, and associations both with and without such agents should be treated equally. The drafting and enactment of an Association Law should be carried out immediately.
Institutional Separation of the Party and the Government: The modernization process in China should include the modernization of the relationship between political parties and the government. The enactment of legislation, the formulation of administrative policies, and personnel decisions should be determined only through competitive public elections and the actions of the parliament, in [End Page 10] accordance with impartial legal procedures and publicly recognized political principles.
In the past 20 years, the quality of personnel in public office has improved, governmental...