A group of Communist Party veterans has written an audacious open letter demanding the removal of two of China’s most powerful leaders in a “rare sign of open opposition” within the ruling party elite. The letter – “the latest sign of disunity ahead of a once-a-decade leadership transition” – calls for the resignation of the country’s head of domestic security boss, Zhou Yongkang (right), and a senior propaganda official, Liu Yunshan.
One of the country’s top nine leaders, hardliner Zhou was a close ally of Bo Xilai, the neo-Maoist party leader whose recent ouster highlighted a fierce ideological struggle within the ruling party and prompted the country’s biggest political scandal in decades.
“Facts that are coming to light now, prove the behaviour of Bo Xilai did not lead to ordinary mistakes, but to serious crimes,” the letter said.
“People like Zhou Yongkang, not only took part in Bo Xilai’s plan for the ‘Chongqing model’, but helped push it forward and gave it active support. He should not be allowed to escape his crimes.”
The letter, published on several foreign websites, “is an audacious step in China, where open dissent or organised criticism of top leaders is usually severely punished,” AFP reports.
Zhao Zhengrong, a retired anti-corruption official from the southwestern province of Yunnan, told AFP he and 15 other party members had sent the letter advocating Zhou’s removal to higher authorities.
“We are demanding this because Zhou Yongkang directed the ‘Chongqing model’ and supported Bo Xilai. They are liars, they are of the same ilk,” Zhao said.
Rights activists accused Zhou of orchestrating the judiciary and police to aid Bo’s extra-legal “Red Terror” campaign against crime in Chongqing that also served to disguise a crackdown on political dissent.
“Bo Xilai’s attack on the mafia depended on the judicial system under the leadership of Zhou Yongkang, including the police, courts and the prosecution,” retired Shandong University professor Sun Wenguang told AFP.
“The methods they were using to attack the mafia were destroying judicial independence and judicial fairness. This led to a lot of unjust trials and further spread terror throughout society.”
Sun said Zhou was probably consulted on the cases of leading rights activists including Chen Guangcheng (left), a recipient of the National Endowment for Democracy‘s 2008 Democracy Award, jailed 2010 Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo and Gao Zhisheng.
“When they were striking at the mafia, they were also hitting out at those who held opposing views,” Sun said. “The dissidents and democracy activists, those with opposing views, were being grouped together with real criminals.”
China analyst Perry Link takes exception to the reported comment of a “relieved” American official about the case of the blind dissident Chen Guangcheng, specifically that “the days of blowing up the relationship over a single guy are over.”
The sentiment reveals “a serious misconception that has hampered United States-China policy for years,” writes Link, professor emeritus of East Asian studies at Princeton University, who teaches at the University of California, Riverside:
Chen Guangcheng, like other people who stand up to abuse in China, is not “a single guy.” Mr. Chen’s rights advocacy has earned him a considerable following in China, and last month his dramatic escape expanded that following many hundreds of times…..
For decades America’s managers of China policy have accepted the implicit demand of China’s rulers that they, and only they, are “China.” In diplomatic lingo, “the Chinese” view on anything — trade, Taiwan, Tibet, Syria, cyberwarfare, even human rights — is the view of the ruling circles, no matter how much it might diverge from currents in popular thought.
“Where will our ‘relationship’ be if, someday, China’s ruling group goes the way of other repressive authoritarian regimes and is no longer there?”
Recent events are raising politically salient and sensitive questions about the resilience of the much-vaunted China model, the must-read China Digital Times reports, including an inner-party debate over how to protect rights and check arbitrary power and whether Beijing squandering its ‘soft power’ investments:
As part of the run-up to the 18th Party Congress this fall and subsequent leadership transition, China Media Project analyzes a full-page spread in People’s Daily on political reform, which utilizes the catch-phrases, “protecting rights” and “checking power”:
In terms of breadth and boldness, the People’s Daily series is nothing to write home about. Most of the language is a song of self congratulation from China’s leaders about the progress they say they have already made on political reform.
On issues many would regard as fundamental to substantive and meaningful political reform, the People’s Daily series seems to shut the door. It says quite explicitly, for example, that “the leadership of the Party must be upheld”:
In actively and steadily promoting political reform we must uphold the fundamental political system and basic economic system of our country. We must uphold as one the three [principles of] the leadership of the Party, the people… [Read the whole entry.]
Following a series of damaging stories this year, notably the ousting of Bo Xilai and escape of Chen Guangcheng, The Atlantic’s Damien Ma argues that “for all the financial muscle thrown behind shaping its global image, Beijing may have squandered more soft power in the last few months than it has accrued in years“:
… The collective global attention paid to the world’s number-two economy has increased drastically in the media and within policy circles. Call it the “post-Olympics effect.” The triumphalism of the 2008 Beijing Games and the ensuing collapse of the global economy dramatically altered the extent and scope to which the world focused on China. Just a little over three years later, a “China story” is bound to splash across the front page of major U.S. papers week after week. The breadth and detail of coverage have increased significantly too. Many more Americans now likely know that there’s a gargantuan Chinese city called Chongqing and that its…
China Digital Times is supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.