China’s cry for freedom of speech

A
group of 23 Communist Party elders in China has written a letter calling for an
end to the country’s restrictions on freedom of speech.

The
letter says freedom of expression is promised in the Chinese constitution but
not allowed in practice.

They
want people to be able to freely express themselves on the internet and want
more respect for journalists.

The
call comes just days after the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded this
year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr
Liu was sent to prison for 11 years in 2009 for expressing his desire to see
peaceful political change in China.

The
letter’s release also comes ahead of a key party meeting that is expected to
promote future leaders and shape policy for the next few years.

The
authors of the letter describe China’s current censorship system as a scandal
and an embarrassment.

 

Eight demands for change

·        
Dismantle
system where media organisations are all tied to higher authorities

·        
Respect
journalists, accept their social status

·        
Revoke
ban on cross-province supervision by public opinion

·        
Abolish
cyber-police; control Web administrators’ ability to delete/post items at will

·        
Confirm
citizens’ right to know crimes and mistakes committed by ruling party

·        
Launch
pilot projects to support citizen-owned media organisations

·        
Allow
media and publications from Hong Kong and Macau to be openly distributed

·        
Change
the mission of propaganda authorities, from preventing the leak of information
to facilitating its accurate and timely spread

 

Many
who signed the letter were once influential officials.

They
include a former personal secretary to the revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, and
a former editor of the People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper.