China is said to order halt to calls for political reform
BEIJING -- After several months of permitting China's intellectuals the freedom to call for political reform, ponder sweeping revisions to the constitution and consider changes in the official history of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, the Communist Party has reportedly ordered a stop to such debate, and security personnel have begun harassing leading academics, economists and legal scholars.
In the past weeks, party organizations, research institutes and universities have been instructed to stop all conferences and suppress all essays about those three subjects, according to sources within the Communist Party. The Ministry of Propaganda has informed China's news media there are other topics that can no longer be broached, the sources said.
Participants in a conference on constitutional reform have been followed, interrogated or instructed to stop speaking about the issue. Earlier this month, security personnel began trailing and harassing the conference organizer, Cao Siyuan, one of China's experts on bankruptcy and a leading advocate of political reform, Chinese sources said. The conference was held June 19-20 in the coastal city of Qingdao.
Separately, in internal meetings at universities and government institutes over the summer, some influential scholars have stood up and called for a reevaluation of the official position on the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. They questioned the government's version that the party was right to open fire on students who marched for democracy.
Chinese sources said the number and vociferousness of these demands had worried party officials, especially those close to Jiang Zemin, the former Communist Party boss. Jiang rose to power after the Tiananmen crackdown, and any change in the official version would undermine his legitimacy and that of people he placed in power.
More broadly, the effort to muffle debate about these issues appears to be part of a broader struggle between Jiang and his successor, Hu Jintao, according to the Chinese sources and analysts. Jiang and his allies, the sources said, generally oppose any political loosening. By contrast, Hu has portrayed himself as a friend of reformers and liberals.
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