Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Joanna Chiu writes at The Atlantic that Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent comments in support of legal reform have reignited a debate over constitutionalism and constitutional reform in the country. ("Reignited," because the government put a stop to those discussions when it imprisoned Liu Xiaobo and interrogated others in response to a manifest, "Charter 08," by a group of intellectuals calling for constitutionalism and restrained Party power.) Still, she says, any push for constitutionalism or constitutional reform still gets heavy push-back from the government. And an internal Party memo she cites calls for the eradication of "seven subversive currents" in Chinese society; those include "Western constitutional democracy," universal human rights values, media independence, and civic participation.
Chiu quotes a Shanghai lawyer to summarize the problem:
[The constitution] looks beautiful on paper, but in practice Chinese courts do not generally take the Chinese constitution into consideration to decide cases. Ordinary citizens cannot use the constitution to defend their rights or redress their grievances.
As for the government's reaction to talk about constitutionalism and reform, this anecdote is telling:
Nevertheless, calls for China to adhere to the 1982 constitution remain. In December, Beijing University professor Zhang Qianfan published "A Proposal for Consensus Reform," co-signed by 72 intellectuals including He Weifang, demanding that the government abide by the charter. The proposal suggested setting up a review committee within the National People's Congress as a first step to give the constitution real power. But the article, which was posted on Zhang's personal blog and the Beijing University Law School website, was soon deleted without explanation.