CALLS for democracy are creeping back into China's political and
Dissidents Hu Jiwei and Xu Liangying openly urged democratic
reform in recently published local newspaper articles, a sign that
China's controls on political discussion are loosening in the wake
of economic change.
The reopened political debate comes as China's ruling Communists
wrestle with fears of inflation amid rising economic growth. Some
Chinese analysts suggest that conservative opponents of paramount
leader Deng Xiaoping could use the threat of inflation to slow down
the economy and his market reforms in coming months.
Public anger over high prices helped fuel popular discontent
that culminated in the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy
demonstrators in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. After the
crackdown, the gradual opening up of China to free-market ideas and
foreign contact was halted.
In recent months China has stepped back from hard-line communism
to foster market reforms, and political activists have tried to use
new economic freedom to renew calls for intellectual, cultural, and
In the most daring clarion call to date, Mr. Hu urged China's
growing legions of prosperous entrepreneurs to mobilize for
democratic change. The article by Hu, a former chief editor of
People's Daily, the Communist Party newspaper, appeared Jan. 11 in
a full-page article in Factory Director and Manager News, an
official but independent-minded newspaper in Sichuan Province.
Calling for direct elections and the dismissal of leaders
through a popular vote, the former party propagandist exhorted the
new business class to "become the main army of establishing China's
theory of democracy and promoting the building of democracy.
"In the past, studies and explorations of democracy were limited
to intellectuals or circles that are not corporate," Hu wrote.
"This is something abnormal. Economic prosperity depends on whether
entrepreneurs can have the right of taking part in administration
and discussing politics."
Hu was the official in China's National People's Congress in
charge of press and publication when he threw his weight behind the
Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989. He was removed and retired
from the post for attempting to convene an emergency session of the
Congress's standing committee to overturn martial law.
"If China is to rejuvenate her culture and to accomplish
political reform and economic prosperity, China has to have
democracy and progress," he wrote. "Without the establishment of
democracy, there can't be healthy and happy lives for the Chinese
Hu's essay is one of a series of commentaries by Chinese, Hong
Kong, and Taiwanese scholars to be published throughout the first
half of 1993, said Chen Bing, an editor at Factory Director and
Manager News. In a telephone interview from Chengdu, the Sichuan
capital, Mr. Chen said there had been no reaction so far from
Beijing ideologues although the Hu article had stirred a response
in the province.
"Some Chengdu journalists had come to the paper, and they were
excited that the issue of democracy has come up again," Chen said. …