The website of liberal magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu now redirects to this official ‘Access Denied’ page.
Yanhuang Chunqiu, a liberal magazine with ties to reformist elements of the Communist Party, has had its website shut down by Party censors in apparent retaliation for an outspoken New Year’s editorial.
The article, published online and in the January issue of the magazine, was titled “The Constitution is a Consensus for Political Reform”. In it, the magazine argued that China’s Constitution lays out the priorities to be addressed in carrying out meaningful political reform.
Hong Kong University’s China Media Project has a translation of the full editorial, some excerpts:
Actually, [a basis for] consensus on political reform already exists. This consensus is the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. While the Constitution presently in force is by no means perfect, if only we can carry it out in full political reform in our country will take a huge step forward.
Article 57 of our Constitution says that “the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China is the highest organ of state power.” Article 62 says that the National People’s Congress (NPC) has 15 functions and powers. Article 63 says the NPC has the power to recall or remove from office the President, Premier and other national leaders.
While this simple elucidation of constitutional principles may not seem so radical at first glance, such an interpretation gives the government and the legislature ultimate power over the country, as opposed to the Party which has always until now controlled matters behind the scenes (for example, the head of the Party, Xi Jinping, has considerably more power than the head of the State Council, Wen Jiabao, though of course Wen also has a senior Party rank in addition to his governmental role).
The Constitution also states that national administrative authority (行政机关), auditing authorities (审计机关) and procuratorial authorities (检察机关) all emerge through the NPC, are responsible to it and are monitored by it. The armed forces of the nation belong to the people, and the armed forces are led by the State Central Military Commission (国家中央军事委员会). But we must candidly admit that the National People’s Congress has not in fact become the highest organ of state power, and none of these stipulations in our Constitution have been put into practice.
Article 35 of the Constitution states that the “citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.” If this article were put into effect all the various types of limits placed on our news media would not exist. What’s more, we would no longer have cases in which “words incriminate” (以言治罪). With freedom of speech and press we would also have public opinion checks on corruption.
The closure of Yanhuang Chunqiu‘s website and the harmonisation of a recent Southern Weekend editorial are the most recent examples of just how little Article 35 is currently respected.
Political reform is about building a system in place than can check power, and that means conscientiously protecting the rights of citizens. There is much language within our Constitution that preserves human rights, and that limits the power of the state. If we compare and contrast our Constitution and our reality, we discover that the system, policies and laws currently in force create a massive gap between the Constitution and the conduct of our government. Our Constitution is essentially void.