15 October 2010

Old Commies promote free speech in China

The Chinese government has not distinguished itself with its furious reaction to the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, imprisoned campaigner for human rights and democracy in his country. The reaction was expected of course from a government that remains afraid of its citizens freely speak their minds. It is encouraging therefore to see opposition to the government's approach coming from elders of the Communist Party.

Even as Liu's wife, Liu Xia, is placed under house arrest, presumably to prevent her from reporting her husband's thoughts or collecting the prize, a group of senior officials has written an open letter demanding freedom of expression in China.

The letter, addressed to "Dear members of the standing committee of the National People's Congress," begins by stating that Article 35 of China's constitution, which guarantees "freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration," has been "negated by detailed rules and regulations." This, say the authors, amounts to a "scandalous mark on the history of world democracy."

The letter concludes by making a series of demands including "the right of journalists to carry out reporting freely throughout the country;" ending "taboos concerning our party's history;" permitting "the free circulation within the mainland of books and periodicals from Hong Kong and Macao;" and transforming propaganda organs into "agencies that oppose power and protect media and journalists."

The distinguished signatories included Li Pu, former deputy director of Xinhua news agency: Wang Yongcheng, professor at Shanghai Jiaotong University; Du Guang, former professor at the Central Party School; Yu You, former editor-in-chief of China Daily; Sha Yexin, former head of the Shanghai People's Art and Drama Academy; and Li Rui, former vice-minister of the organization department of the CCP central committee and once secretary to Mao Zedong.

The letter can be read in full here -- a breath of fresh air from that oppressive nation.

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