Social progress is inevitable in China, says activist Chen Guangcheng
Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng says China's 'Communist Party sits brazenly above the constitution and the law and makes no effort to reform.' But he says 'social progress is inevitable' and that 'the balance of power between officialdom and the people is shifting.'
Chen Guangcheng is the blind civil rights advocate from rural China who escaped house arrest in April 2012 and fled to the US Embassy in Beijing. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton negotiated his temporary stay in the US to study law at New York University. He was interviewed by Global Viewpoint Network editor Nathan Gardels.Skip to next paragraph
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Nathan Gardels: On the 30th anniversary of the Chinese Constitution in early December, China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, said, “We must firmly establish, throughout society, the authority of the constitution and the law and allow the masses to fully believe in the law. ... No organization or individual has the privilege to overstep the constitution and the law, and any violation of the constitution and the law must be investigated. ... We must establish mechanisms to restrain and supervise power. Power must be made responsible and must be supervised.”
Do you believe that the new Chinese leadership is embarking on a genuine “rule of law” campaign in the wake of the recent Bo Xilai and princeling corruption scandals?
Chen Guangcheng: I think the idea that Xi Jinping will change as a result of the Bo Xilai affair is completely unfounded. The most important thing is to look at his actions. We have all heard enough nice talk, and the key now is to look at what he does. If there are specific actions taken, then we can believe the talk.
Gardels: What, specifically, would have to happen to indicate to you that this effort of the new leadership is genuine and a sign of progress?
Chen: For example, they could eliminate policies that restrict the formation of other political parties and press freedoms, and truly protect freedom of speech. They could separate the power of the party from the government, which now affects all levels of government, from the central authorities to the local authorities. Make the judiciary independent. Let the party manage its affairs, and let the government carry out its duties according to the law. If they can do this, we will believe them.
Gardels: So, up to now they haven’t introduced any new measures that might mark a path toward change?
Chen: No. If they put out a time line, I would believe that. Unfortunately, at the moment, under the current system, the Communist Party sits brazenly above the constitution and the law and makes no effort to reform. How, in this scenario, are we to believe they will respect the constitution?