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Mon Feb 4, 2013, 02:10 PM

Liberal reformers in China push government to live up to their constitution.

After the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, the surviving Communist Party leaders pursued a project that might sound familiar to those in the West: Write a constitution that enshrines individual rights and ensures rulers are subject to law, so that China would never again suffer from the whims of a tyrant.

Now, in a drive to persuade the Communist Partyís new leaders to liberalize the authoritarian political system, prominent Chinese intellectuals and publications are urging the party simply to enforce the principles of their own Constitution.

The strategy reflects an emerging consensus among advocates for political reform that taking a moderate stand in support of the Constitution is the best way to persuade Xi Jinping, the partyís new general secretary, and other leaders, to open up Chinaís party-controlled system. Some of Mr. Xiís recent speeches, including one in which he emphasized the need to enforce the Constitution, have ignited hope among those pushing for change.

A wide range of notable voices, among them ones in the party, have joined the effort. Several influential journals and newspapers have published editorials in the last two months calling for Chinese leaders to govern in accordance with the Constitution. Most notable among those is Study Times, a publication of the Central Party School, where Mr. Xi served as president until this year. That weekly newspaper ran a signed editorial on Jan. 21 that recommends that the party establish a committee under the national legislature that would ensure that no laws are passed that violate the Constitution.


I would not get my hopes up about their government taking their own constitution seriously, but I am glad that some Chinese are getting their hopes up. They may end up in prison (they must understand the risk even better than we do) for urging that their government live up to its own constitution, but I am glad they are speaking up anyway.

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