Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, January 20, 2014

Some things change, others don't

There might be an appearance of change (high ranking officials being prosecuted for corruption), but the Communist Party's monopoly on authority is a constant.

Chinese Activists Test New Leader and Are Crushed
The 20 or so activists gathered at an isolated guesthouse on the outskirts of the capital…

That day, in May 2012, they began work on a plan to expand the New Citizens Movement, an ambitious campaign for transparency and fairness that would… provide the first major test to help gauge the new leadership’s tolerance for grass-roots political activism.

They were heartened when China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, came to power that November, vowing to stamp out corruption, promote judicial fairness and respect the Constitution, goals tantalizingly close to their own.

Now, 14 months later, their ideals have collided with a harsh reality…

Xu Zhiyong
About 20 people associated with the group have been detained. Three members have been tried and await judgment. And the rights lawyer who organized the guesthouse meeting, Xu Zhiyong, was indicted last month for “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order” and faces almost certain conviction…

The crushing of the New Citizens Movement is just one stark example of the new leadership’s refusal to countenance any stirrings of opposition…

The Communist Party has partly endorsed some of the changes demanded by rights advocates, like ending re-education through labor, a form of imprisonment without trial. But behind the scenes… the gatherings fed leaders’ fears that the growing clamor for reform could crystallize into a threat to the party’s authority.

During secretive meetings last spring, security and propaganda officials concluded that they had to take a tough line, Mr. Chen said. In April, the leadership approved an internal directive identifying seven ideological threats, including rights defense activists and civil society advocates…

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