The biggest challenge for China’s next leaders is confronting a lawless police state nurtured by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) own drive to put top-down control ahead of human rights, blind activist Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) has written.
Chen laid down his challenge to Beijing’s next central leaders, who will be unveiled at a party congress later this year, in an opinion column for the New York Times that appeared online on Tuesday night.
“The fundamental question the Chinese government must face is lawlessness,” Chen wrote. “China does not lack laws, but the rule of law.”
Chen is in New York where he will study after escaping 19 months of house imprisonment in eastern Shandong Province and taking shelter in the US embassy, a drama that focused world attention on China’s poor human rights record.
Chen made clear that he believed his experience reflected broader abuses by officials who have been told to put “stability before all else” by authorities wary of unrest that could erode their grip on power.
“This issue of lawlessness may be the greatest challenge facing the new leaders who will be installed this autumn by the 18th National Congress of the [CCP],” Chen wrote.
“Indeed, China’s political stability may depend on its ability to develop the rule of law in a system where it barely exists,” he added. “China stands at a critical juncture. I hope its new leaders will use this opportunity wisely.”
Chen’s comments highlighted how China’s expansion of “stability preservation” and domestic security powers over the past decade has created a contentious legacy for the next party leadership, almost sure to be headed by current Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平).
The party’s top domestic security official, Zhou Yongkang (周永康), also suffered a blow to his authority over a scandal around Bo Xilai (薄熙來), the sacked chief of Chongqing in southwest China. Zhou was widely seen as staying too close to Bo for too long.
Chen wrote that although China’s legislation can appear on paper to offer citizens robust protection, in practice the police and officials can ride roughshod over the law.