Prospects for Reform in China Tantalize

By Stephen Gregory & Jane Lin

On June 19, 2012 @ 9:05 pm

The 17th Chinese Communist Party Congress on Oct. 21, 2007, in Beijing. The CCP’s 18th National Congress is scheduled for the fall of 2012. (Guang Niu/Getty Images)

The 17th Chinese Communist Party Congress on Oct. 21, 2007, in Beijing. The CCP’s 18th National Congress is scheduled for the fall of 2012. (Guang Niu/Getty Images)



Since Chongqing’s former deputy mayor Wang Lijun fled to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu on Feb. 6, there has been an uneven double movement within the Chinese Communist Party as long-standing power arrangements are dismantled and steps toward a new direction for the Chinese regime are taken. The two movements are linked—a new direction for China is possible only if elements of the old guard are removed.

On the one hand, the Party’s top leadership has been rolling up the bloody-hands faction formed by former CCP head Jiang Zemin for the purpose of persecuting Falun Gong. The Party leaders have followed a trail that began with Wang Lijun and has led to Party heavyweights Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang.

Bo has been purged and is undergoing shanggui—the abusive form of interrogation served up as discipline and investigation of errant Party members. Cronies of Bo have been removed from their posts.

Zhou has been stripped of authority and is under investigation.

Meanwhile, some Party members associated with the bloody-hands faction, such as Politburo Standing Committee member Jia Qinglin, are now seeking to realign themselves so that they are seen as loyal to CCP head Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.



The logical conclusion of the movement toward reform will be holding Jiang Zemin accountable for the persecution.



The logical conclusion of this movement will be the targeting of Jiang Zemin himself.

Ideological Line

On the other hand, since Wang Lijun fled to Chengdu, there have been leaks from Party councils of plans for political reform, proposals for redressing the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre and suppression, and signs that the leadership is laying the groundwork for ending the persecution of the spiritual practice Falun Gong.

At Wen Jiabao’s press conference at the conclusion of the National People’s Congress on March 14, Wen made the case for reform.

“Reform has reached a critical stage,” Wen said. “Without the success of political reform, economic reforms cannot be carried out. The results that we have achieved may be lost. A historical tragedy like the Cultural Revolution may occur again. Each party member and cadre should feel a sense of urgency.”

Epoch Times columnist Heng He has argued that at this press conference, Wen reintroduced into the Party something that had not been seen since the time of Mao—a competition between two ideological lines.

Bo Xilai was the standard bearer for a Maoist revival of the Communist Party. He was publicly criticized by Wen at this press conference and would be relieved of his position as head of the Party in Chongqing the next day. Purging Bo removed the left-wing leader of the opposition to reform.



Purging Bo Xilai removed the left-wing leader of the opposition to reform.



Immediately after Bo was taken down, Maoist websites were shut down, and two pro-Maoist commentators were dismissed.

Reform Program

Following the removal of Bo, there were various reports suggesting reform was on the leadership’s agenda. Then, at the beginning of May, an individual familiar with high-level Party deliberations told The Epoch Times that key leaders in the Politburo had reached four points of consensus, which would be announced around the time of the 18th Party Congress:

1. People from all walks of life, political parties, and social organizations should send representatives to form a preparatory committee for a new constitution. They will draft a new constitution that protects the rights of citizens to freely form associations and political parties.

2. It will be announced that the Chinese Communist Party has finished its historical mission as the ruling party. Party membership will need to be re-registered, with the free choice to re-enter the Party or leave it.

3. “June 4,” Falun Gong, and all groups who have been wrongly persecuted in the process of devoting themselves to China’s realization of democracy will be redressed and receive compensation.

4. The military will be nationalized.

Since the behind-the-scenes adoption of this political program, several events that are consistent with the direction it sets forth have taken place.

At a May 7 press conference held by the State Council Information Office, Civil Affair Minister Li Liguo announced a new policy governing the registration of organizations independent of the Communist Party. Political parties, human rights organizations, NGOs, and other elements of civil society would be allowed to register directly with the state. Previously, an independent organization had to be sponsored by an administrative organization that would take responsibility for it.

In other words, the organizations that make up a civil society would be allowed to function without official monitoring. This would seem to be a necessary first step toward the possibility of the constitutional convention called for in the first point of consensus.

China’s state-run media reported that Guangdong Province would be the first place the new method of registration of organizations would take place.

On May 9, the head of the CCP in Guangdong, Wang Yang, gave a speech in which he challengedthe communist doctrine on the role of the Party.

“We must do away with the mistaken idea that the happiness of the people is a favor bestowed by the Party and the government,” Wang said.

“Seeking happiness is the right of the people,” and the role of government is to give “the masses of people” freedom to “boldly explore their own road to happiness,” Wang said.

On May 14, the Party mouthpiece People’s Daily carried a one-page article on political reform. Thearticle argued for restraining power and protecting rights.

While Wen Jiabao has several times proposed redressing the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square massacre, in early June, Hong Kong media reported that three separate proposals had been advanced by Party leaders to do so.

According to Hong Kong’s Front Line magazine, the presumptive next head of the CCP, Xi Jinping, has called for a proposal to redress the massacre, compensate victims, and hold those responsible accountable.

Hong Kong’s Chengming magazine reported that three high-ranking officials of the National People’s Congress put together a proposal for redressing June 4, as did a high-ranking official from the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. These proposals did not include holding officials accountable. 

Redressing Falun Gong

In the end, reform is possible only if the persecution of Falun Gong is ended. This systematic and brutal violation of human rights makes a mockery of any attempt at otherwise restraining political power or protecting rights.

Ending the persecution, though, requires ending the power of the bloody-hands faction that has dominated the CCP for the past 13 years. These officials fear being held accountable for their crimes and thus have sought at all costs to keep their campaign of persecution going.

With tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners dead from torture and organ harvesting, this faction’s crimes are so extensive that Chinese society could never move forward until those responsible are brought to justice.

The logical conclusion of the movement toward reform will be holding Jiang Zemin accountable for the persecution.

Whether the CCP leadership will face that squarely remains to be seen, but there are signs that the Party is changing its stance toward Falun Gong.

In early April, a source in Beijing told The Epoch Times that Wen Jiabao had proposed redressing Falun Gong in top-level meetings.

In late March, censorship of the Chinese Internet was lifted for a time on several terms related to Falun Gong.

It was possible to reach a website with “Zhuan Falun,” Falun Gong’s fundamental text. And a search for “Bloody Harvest,” the investigative report into forced, live organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners, was also productive.

Also in late March, lawyers defending Falun Gong practitioners in Heilongjiang Province, a province notorious for its hard-line enforcement of the persecution, told The Epoch Times that the persecution there was softening.

In mid-April, villagers outraged at the arrest of a popular schoolteacher who practices Falun Gong submitted a petition asking for his release. That petition was eventually circulated to the members of the Politburo Standing Committee—the small group that runs China. This could only have happened at the wish of high-ranking officials.

In late May, the prosecutor sent that practitioner’s case back to the Public Security Bureau, saying the case lacked evidence. In the past, no evidence was ever needed to prosecute Falun Gong practitioners.

For 13 years, state-run media has attacked qigong, the form of traditional Chinese exercise that moves vital energy through the body. This stance by the media is part of the persecution of Falun Gong, as it is a form of qigong.

On May 31, the regime-mouthpiece Xinhua news agency reported that the Chinese Ministry of Health had commented positively on a report regarding a qigong training course in Gansu Province. This change could only have come with the approval of top officials.


At the moment, the possibilities of reform are unrealized. China’s chance of entering a new era will depend on what stance is taken toward Falun Gong.

When Chongqing’s former top cop, Wang Lijun, fled for his life to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu on Feb. 6, he set in motion a political storm that has not subsided. The battle behind the scenes turns on what stance officials take toward the persecution of Falun Gong. The faction with bloody hands—the officials former CCP head Jiang Zemin promoted in order to carry out the persecution—is seeking to avoid accountability for their crimes and to continue the campaign. Other officials are refusing any longer to participate in the persecution. Events present a clear choice to the officials and citizens of China, as well as people around the world: either support or oppose the persecution of Falun Gong. History will record the choice each person makes.

The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.


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