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Mainland media's political reform push gathers steam

October 17, 2010

Priscilla Jiao
South China Morning Post (SCMP)
October 14, 2010

The mainland media's call for political reform is
gathering steam, with several national and
provincial newspapers joining the campaign.

The latest calls for change come ahead of
tomorrow's Communist Party plenary session and
follow high-profile statements by Premier Wen Jiabao.

The Communist Youth League-affiliated China Youth
Daily; The Beijing News; Shanghai's Oriental
Morning Post; the Changjiang Daily in Wuhan ,
Hubei ; the Xinhua-affiliated Modern Express in
Nanjing , Jiangsu ; the Xiaoxiang Morning Post in
Changsha, Hunan; and the Southern Rural News in
Guangzhou have all published articles focusing
either on Wen's appearance on the cover of Time
magazine's Asia edition or his calls for
political reform over the past two weeks.

Prominent, full-page packages appeared yesterday
in the Xiaoxiang Morning Post and Modern Express,
which have a total circulation of 1.5 million,
mostly in Jiangsu and Hunan provinces. The
articles covered Wen's calls for political reform
and related analysis on the reforms' prospects.
The Xiaoxiang Morning Post's coverage headlined
"China is about to launch the third 30-year
reform", was censored online yesterday although
the one-page, milder Modern Express report remained.

Mainland media seem to be seizing the momentum to
call for political reform in the run-up to the
fifth plenary session of the current Central Committee.

During the meeting, to be presided over by party
general secretary Hu Jintao, the leadership will
study suggestions on the strategically
significant 12th Five-Year Programme for national
economic and social development. The meeting will
focus on major issues hindering sound development.

Wen called for political reform seven times in
the 43 days between August 22 and October 3,

ending with a pledge on CNN to advance democratic
reform. "I will not yield until the last day of
my life in spite of strong winds and harsh rain," Wen said.

Yu Keping , deputy bureau chief of the Central
Compilation and Translation Bureau, was cited by
Xinhua on Tuesday as saying he expected the party
plenary would unveil the third 30-year reform,
which would likely focus on social and political reforms.

The article also appeared in the Oriental Morning
Post yesterday and dozens of websites including
China News Service, the second biggest
state-owned news agency, and the China Daily, one
of two national English-language newspapers.

Yu said the party and the government would
deliver reform based on democracy and the rule of
law. It would be part of efforts to carry out
democratic elections, policymaking and

management, and to ensure that the people would
be informed and be allowed to express themselves
and participate in government. All efforts were
meant to build "good governance".

Yu's comments came the same day as a group of
well-known former political officials and media
professionals published an open letter to the top
legislature demanding freedom of press and the abolition of media censorship.

Hundreds of people across the country have signed the letter in recent days.

The document echoed Wen's comment to CNN: "I
believe freedom of speech is indispensable for
any country, a country in the course of
development and a country that has become strong.

Freedom of speech has been incorporated into the Chinese constitution."

Zhan Jiang , a journalism professor at Beijing
Foreign Studies University, said Yu's remarks in
Modern Express and Xinhua should be a reliable
indication that political reform would be discussed during the plenary session.

"The situation has become more upbeat compared
with the first half of the year, when many
believed the political environment had gone
backwards," Zhan said. "While we anticipate that
political reform will be a main discussion
subject, we need to be wary that it might be
another illusion, like a cycle of history."
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