Veteran Chinese politicians' open letter urges free speech reforms

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October 13, 2010 20:39

File photo of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Propaganda Department meeting held on 24 December, 2009. Photo - Xinhua.net

Who: A group of 23 Communist party elders including influential leaders like Li Rui, the former secretary to revolutionary leader, Mao Zedong; Hu Jiwei, former director of Peoples’ Daily, and Li Pu, ex-deputy director of Xinhua news agency.

What: The Communist party veterans called on Beijing to end the restrictions on free press and practice laws of the 1982 constitution that guarantees freedom of speech and expression, effectively ending state censorship.

Where: The letter has been signed by Chinese politicians and intellectuals from all over the country.

When: The open letter dated 1 October came into circulation online from 11 October. It comes in the wake of the 8 October decision of the Nobel Peace Committee in Norway to award this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, an imprisoned Chinese dissident.

Why: Chinese government restricts freedom of speech through undefined rules and regulations on what can or cannot be published. The censorship is carried out by the Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department. “Our current system of censoring news and publications is 315 years behind Britain and 129 years behind France,” the elders said in the open letter.

How: The party veterans’ key demand is to establish a system of legal responsibility instead of the current censorship regime. Other major demands include creation of a Press law that ends all of the local restrictions on media and ensure its independence from government bodies, making editors-in-chief responsible for their editorial decisions.

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