China will never become a Western-style democracy, the head of the country’s rubber-stamp parliament said yesterday, in an apparent response to renewed calls for political reform from inside and outside the country.
In an address to the annual nine-day meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC), Wu Bangguo (吳邦國), chairman of the NPC’s Standing Committee, laid out extensive arguments seeking to justify China’s one-party communist system and draw clear distinctions with multiparty political systems in the West.
China, he said, would never introduce a system of “multiple parties holding office in rotation,” nor would it allow a separation of powers among the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, or a legislature made up of lower and upper houses.
Wu’s remarks emphasizing the primacy of the “path of socialism with Chinese characteristics” appeared to be a rebuttal to critics at home and abroad calling for greater liberalization, including legalizing opposition parties and direct elections for legislative bodies.
His remarks on the issue were considerably longer than in last year’s address, in which he made only passing reference to China’s rejection of separation of powers and a bicameral system.
Wu also appeared to rule out moves toward greater judicial independence, saying the Communist Party would continue to dictate standards and priorities that it expected courts and prosecutors to adhere to.
“The Western model of a legal system cannot be copied mechanically in establishing our own,” Wu said.
His address enumerated the work of the NPC’s Standing Committee, the 74-member body that handles legislative business when the almost 3,000-member NPC is not in session.
Wu said China aimed to establish a “legal system of socialism with Chinese characteristics” by next year, achieved through enacting and revising legislation rather than structural adjustments.
He said top legislative work this year would focus on drawing up laws covering social programs such as health care, pensions and education.
Politically sensitive anniversaries in China this year could generate protests and dissent, adding to government worries about unrest as bankruptcies and unemployment rise because of slowing exports amid the global financial crisis.
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the fleeing of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama into exile after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule. It also marks the first anniversary of violent Tibetan protests in Lhasa and elsewhere.
June 4 will mark 20 years since the military crushed student-led, pro-democracy protests around Tiananmen Square.
And on Oct. 1, Beijing will hold a military parade to mark the 60th anniversary of Communist China’s founding. Dissidents could use the day to demonstrate for political reforms.
Wu invoked the spirit of reformist paramount leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平), who ordered the 1989 crackdown on the students, citing his saying that without the Party a country as large as China “would be torn by strife and incapable of accomplishing anything.”
Meanwhile, two police cars were damaged by homemade bombs in western Qinghai Province, Xinhua news agency reported yesterday, as the government widened its security lockdown and sealed off Tibetan areas to foreigners.
Xinhua did not give a reason for the blasts, which took place at 2am after police clashed with several people while trying to check a lumber truck.
Police have increased checks on vehicles in places with minority Tibetan populations, including Qinghai.
No fatalities were reported, and it was not known if the blasts were connected with the tensions over Tibet, but the checkpoints and closures are part of a series of increasingly strict measures taken by Beijing to quash any dissent this week.
Convoys of armored vehicles and military trucks have in recent weeks crisscrossed the mountain roads of Tibet and other parts of China’s volatile far west, which saw pockets of unrest after the Lhasa riots. Police and troops have amassed in Tibetan communities.
In Sichuan’s Ganzi Prefecture, where some of the most violent protests took place last year, officials said they received an emergency notice yesterday from the provincial government that Ganzi was now shut off to all foreigners. Similar blocks have been issued in Tibetan areas in Gansu Province.
“There is a special situation and we hope you can leave as soon as possible,” Zhang Lijuan of the Ganzi Prefecture foreign affairs office told reporters in Kangding, where the Ganzi prefecture government is based. “Normally, this is an open place and we would welcome you. But because of this special situation, it’s not convenient.”
The streets of Kangding were busy yesterday, with many residents shopping and working as normal. Police cordoned off traffic around the area in front of the town’s main square, where riot police and machine gun-toting soldiers now regularly march past.
Ganzi Prefecture, known for its strong sense of Tibetan identity and nationalism, is home to the Tongkor monastery, where rights groups say skirmishes broke out last April when Chinese officials demanded that monks denounce the Dalai Lama.
In Beijing, a top police official said China had tightened border controls in Tibet for fear of potential disruptions by supporters of the Dalai Lama, Xinhua said.
“We have made due deployment and tightened controls at border ports, and key areas and passages along the border in Tibet,” Fu Hongyu, political commissar of the Ministry of Public Security Border Control Department, was quoted as saying.
Choosing a full-fledged confrontation with the US due to the loss of a megacontract for submarines for Australia, France is making a risky bet and other nations are not rushing to its defense. After Australia renounced its deal for conventional submarines in favor of US nuclear-powered ones, France took the extraordinary step of pulling its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra for consultations. Bertrand Badie, an international relations professor at the Sciences Po institute in Paris, said France had put itself in a position where it can only appear to be backing down or losing face once its ambassador returns to the US,
Could delivering COVID-19 immunity directly to the nose — the area of the body via which it is mostly transmitted — help conquer the pandemic? The WHO says clinical trials are under way to evaluate eight nasal spray vaccines that target COVID-19. The most advanced effort so far by China’s Xiamen University, the University of Hong Kong and Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy has completed phase 2 trials. “When the virus infects someone, it usually gets in through the nose,” said researcher Nathalie Mielcarek, who is working with the Lille Pasteur Institute to develop a nasal spray vaccine against whooping cough. “The
PLANNING TO REOPEN: Amid 1,607 new COVID-19 cases, the country is making a shift away from lockdowns, acknowledging that outbreaks will happen Australia reported 1,607 new coronavirus cases yesterday as states and territories gradually shift from trying to eliminate outbreaks to living with the virus. Victoria, home to about a quarter of Australia’s 25 million people, recorded 507 cases as Premier Daniel Andrews said a weeks-long lockdown will end once 70 percent of those 16 and older are fully vaccinated, whether or not there are new cases. Andrews said the state might reach that vaccination threshold around Oct. 26. About 43 percent of Victorians have been fully vaccinated, 46 percent nationwide. “We will do so cautiously, but make no mistake, we are opening this place
OLD WAYS: The Ministry of Women’s Affairs also seems to have closed, as its sign was replaced with one for the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice The Taliban have effectively banned girls from secondary education in Afghanistan, by ordering high schools to reopen only for boys. Girls were not mentioned in Friday’s announcement, which means boys would be back at their desks next week after a one-month hiatus, while girls would still be stuck at home. The Taliban Ministry of Education said that secondary-school classes for boys in grades 7 to 12 would resume yesterday, the start of the Afghan week. “All male teachers and students should attend their educational institutions,” the statement said. The future of girls and female teachers, stuck at home since the Taliban took