Beijing: In his last year in office after a
decade-long stint in power, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is
batting for democracy at the village level and has called for
reform and opening-up of the closed society failing which it
would hit a "dead end".
In comments that came during a visit to the southern
Guangdong province, Wen highlighted the need to ensure voting
rights for farmers, and direct election of village leadership,
which he labelled as an important task for local authorities.
"Opening-up and reform should be implemented unswervingly,
or there will only be a dead end," Wen said, evoking path
breaking moves by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, whose economic
reforms overturning Mao Zedong`s hard-line Marxian ideology
propelled China to be world`s second largest economy.
The Premier spoke of farmers` voting rights, direct
election of village-level leadership and self governance, a
rare vocabulary in the tightly controlled one party system.
The comments assume significance as they come close on the
heels of an incident in Guangdong`s Wukan village, where
villagers rose in rebellion against the local party leadership
and drove them out.
Regarded as a liberal among hardliners in the ruling
Communist Party of China (CPC), Wen said furthering reform is
the only key to solving problems at a time of global
uncertainties and also called for determination and boldness
to push forward reform and opening-up, state-run Xinhua said.
Wen, 72 will retire this year after a decade long stint as
Premier. He along with President Hu Jintao and his generation
of party leadership is set to retire towards the end of this
year to pave way for new blood.
Wen said self-governance is the only appropriate way for
improving rural community administration as local affairs
should be decided by local villagers.
In Wukan, the centre of the recent and much-publicised
unrest, the village with over 20,000 people stood up against
police for a week demanding their seized land to be returned.
In the face of international media attention, the
government gave-in and accepted their demands and also ordered
fresh elections for the village council.
Wen has spoken of the need for political reforms a few
times in the past as well but was could never push for them as
hardliners in the party fear that any major political opening
up would result in a Soviet-style collapse.
The new leadership was expected to be elected in the CPC
Congress which was expected to be held later this year.
Wen also said China should help stabilise China`s biggest
export market, the European Union, which has been hit by
sovereign debt crisis.
Europe has been both China`s largest export market and the
biggest source of technical imports, Wen said.
The premier`s trip to the southern province is aimed at
soliciting opinions and feedback on government work ahead of
the two annual sessions of the National People`s Congress
(NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People`s
Political Consultative Conference, which are held in March,
the Xinhua report said.
The State Council also announced last week that it will
send drafts of the annual government work report to local
governments and some central departments in order to solicit
opinions, with the report to be delivered at the opening of
the annual session of the NPC, China`s top legislature.