Top Chinese scholars and university professors have put their weight behind calls for political reform saying China's backward political system is hampering the nation's progress.
Two weeks ago scholars of China's top think-tank, the Central Party School in Beijing, warned that the ruling Communist Party must place checks on its own power, while professor of Economics at Beijing University Shang Dewen called for steady steps towards democracy.
Meanwhile, repression continued as usual with the arrest and interrogation of members of the pro-democracy China Pan-Blue Alliance during a meeting in Changsha City, Hunan Province.
The 366-page report by the think-tank, the Central Party School in Beijing, calls for the ruling regime to place limits on its own power and says the public is fed up with institutionalized corruption and other abuses, according to The Age newspaper.
"Citizens' steadily rising democratic consciousness and the grave corruption among party and government officials make it increasingly urgent to press ahead with demands for political system reform," the report states, according to The Age. "The backwardness of the political system is affecting economic development."
Entitled "Storming the Fortress: A Research Report on China's Political System Reform after the 17th Party Congress," the report was written last year by economics professor Zhou Tianyong and the director of the Central Party School's Party-building division, Wang Changjiang, but has only now been made public.
The report says the Party must maintain overall control due to the importance of "elite" decision making, but calls for liberalization of the press, as well as greater religious freedom.
"Political faith and religious faith are not in contradiction," says the report, according to The Age.
Further, Professor Shang Dewen at the Institute of Economics of Beijing University said in a public letter to China's leaders that political reform was crucial, or the country risked wasting 30 years of economic progress.
According to a report by VOA News, Professor Shang said while great reform of China's economic system had taken place since the passing of former leader Deng Xiaoping, political reform had not even started. The result was a dual structure in Chinese society, with a market economy on one hand and a Stalin- and Mao-style of centralized authority on the other.
"I am suggesting that central authorities launch a political system reform as soon as possible," wrote Professor Shang. "Right now everything is in place and only determination is needed!"
Professor Shang said that while political reform was discussed at last year's 17th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, fundamental principles were not even set forth.
He suggested implementing the country's constitutional law and international conventions on human rights and democracy, including freedom of the media to monitor the leadership.
He also called for an acknowledgement of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement, as well as of the late Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang who spoke in defense of the protesting students.
"Without acknowledging the June 4th democracy movement, political system reform won't be able to even take its first step," said Professor Shang in an interview with VOA.
"Before the June 4th democracy movement, Deng Xiaoping, Hu Yaobang, and Zhao Ziyang were giving serious consideration to reforming China's political system—there is so much written about political reform in Deng's journals.
"After the June 4th democracy movement, this reform is never mentioned anymore. All we ever hear is that 'stability overrides everything.' This slogan of stability overriding everything can be only used for a short period of time. It can't last forever, since it is not the normal state of things."
Professor Shang also called for returning stolen land back to farmers, allowing private land ownership in rural areas, and stopping local officials from suppressing people's petitions, as well as for the release of all political prisoners, such as Gao Zhisheng, Guo Feixiong, Hu Jia, and Chen Guangcheng.
However, the status quo of political repression continues, with members of China's Pan-Blue Alliance arrested on Thursday, Feb. 21.
Key members of the organization from different provinces had arrived in Changsha City, Hunan Province for an internal meeting, but were arrested under the pretense of "being involved in illegal activity" by more than 10 agents from the National Security Bureau.
They were taken to Liuzheng Police Station and interrogated for close to 12 hours.
Alliance member Huang Xiaomin was not released until 2 a.m. the next day. In an interview with Dajiyuan, the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times, he said the interrogation lasted for a couple of hours. The agents mainly asked them about their motives, goals, and main contacts, and how much they knew about the recent arrest of alliance member Zhang Zilin.
Changsha Pan-Blue Alliance member Xie Fulin told Dajiyuan that all of their members who were in town from other regions were deported via train or airplanes.
The authorities did all they could to stop them from meeting, said Mr. Xie. "The authorities do not like it when these democratic people and dissidents get together, because this is what they fear the most."
In September 2006 the Chinese Communist Party declared the China Pan-Blue Alliance an "illegal organization" and started harassing and arresting its members across the nation. The whereabouts of Sun Buer, the leader of the Pan-Blue Alliance, remains unknown since his arrest.