November 12, 2012
BEIJING--At great risk to his personal safety, Chinese human rights activist Hu Jia, who had been regarded as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, made 18 demands for reform to the Communist Party of China (CPC) immediately before the start of the party’s National Congress on Nov. 8.
Hu, 39, disclosed the demands to The Asahi Shimbun. The 18 reforms include transparency of politics, freedom of speech and the implementation of popular elections.
Though he was aware that making such demands puts himself at risk, Hu strongly criticized the CPC, saying, “It lacks the legitimacy of a ruling party.”
Hu released the demands in the form of an e-mail message to his friends and others. He chose to make 18 of them to match the 18th convening of the National Congress.
One of the reforms is that the CPC should change its current rules and selection process in which the proceedings of the National Congress are closed to the public and the selection of party leaders is done behind the scenes.
Another demand is that popular elections be held by 2017. Other reforms include making public the assets of party executives who participate in the National Congress, and guarantees be made for freedom of speech and the independence of China’s judiciary system.
Before the start of the National Congress, Hu was confined to his house in Beijing by the authorities. After that, Hu fled Beijing at the strong urging of his parents, who told him, “If you are arrested again, we will never be able to see you.”
Hu is now taking refuge in Huangshan in Anhui province, eastern China.
As for why he made the 18 demands to the CPC, Hu told The Asahi Shimbun, “Though the party’ congress that decides our country’s future direction is now under way, the general public is not given sufficient opportunities to convey their opinions to the party. My demands are a protest against the current situation.”
In the reports on the party’s activities, which were announced at the beginning of the National Congress, CPC General Secretary Hu Jintao recalled the political reform of the past 10 years with praise for himself, saying, “We made a new step forward.”
However, many activists say with disappointment that the democratization process has gone backward under the 10 years of Hu Jintao’s rule.
In addition to Hu Jia, Liu Xiaobo, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008 for drafting Charter 08, which calls for democratic politics, and Chen Guangcheng, a blind human rights activist, have been given prison terms.
Chinese authorities have not hesitated to conduct strong-arm interrogations and oppression of activists. Because of that repression, Chen and author Yu Jie both left China against their will.
With the National Congress under way, activists in Beijing are being deprived of their freedom of speech as they are confined to their homes, and their use of the Internet and telephones is restricted.
It is rare for activists such as Hu Jia to make demands of the CPC, knowing that to do so jeopardizes their safety and freedom.
After listening to Hu Jintao’s reports on the CPC’s activities, Hu Jia said, “As a prerequisite for every reform they (party leaders) promised, ‘maintaining and strengthening the party’s leadership’ still exists. If they try to protect themselves more and more, the party will get lost on the road it needs to travel.”