News / Asia

Interview - Founder of New China Party Aims to Work Within System

Wang Zheng, one of the founders of Zhi Xian Party and an associate professor of international trade at the Beijing Institute of Economics and Management, in an undated handout photo provided by Wang to Reuters on Nov. 10, 2013.
Wang Zheng, one of the founders of Zhi Xian Party and an associate professor of international trade at the Beijing Institute of Economics and Management, in an undated handout photo provided by Wang to Reuters on Nov. 10, 2013.
Reuters
For someone who has just set up a new political party in the face of a de facto ban by a Chinese government that tolerates no dissent, Wang Zheng has surprisingly modest aims.
   
Wang and other supporters of disgraced senior politician Bo Xilai, who has been jailed for corruption, formed the China Zhi Xian Party - literally "the constitution is the supreme authority" party - last week. It named Bo as "chairman for life."
    
The Communist Party has not allowed any opposition parties to be established since it came to power following the 1949 revolution. So history suggests it will not look kindly on this new party, especially when its titular head is a former member of the Communist Party's top ranks.
    
But Wang, one of the party's founders, insisted in an interview that she is no anti-government revolutionary and is not challenging the Communist Party's right to govern, which she accepts is enshrined in the constitution.
    
Instead, the Zhi Xian Party simply wants the government to guarantee freedom of assembly and elections.
    
"There are many important systems provided for in the constitution, like the National People's Congress and representatives of the people at various levels, but this is not happening according to the constitution. That's what I want to stress," she told Reuters by telephone.
    
According to China's constitution, the "people's representatives", the equivalent of members of parliament in other countries, should be directly elected by the people.
    
But that does not happen in practice. Elections that do take place occur without any opposition candidates and official candidates are pre-approved and pre-screened by the Communist Party. It is widely suspected that votes cast against candidates are not counted.
    
The constitution "says that the Communist Party will lead for the long-term, and in the present circumstances we accept that... It's in the constitution, so we have to accept it," said Wang, 48, an associate professor of international trade at the Beijing Institute of Economics and Management.
    
The new party plans to hold its first congress next year to elect a vice-chairman, Wang said, declining to say how many members her new party had.
    
She described herself as an "initiator" of the party and accepted that forming it was a sensitive move ahead of a meeting of top leaders that started in Beijing on Saturday to map out a long-term economic plan for the country.
    
Wang said that she is currently under surveillance with police and plainclothed security outside her house.
    
Asked earlier if she was worried that she might be arrested, she said "We are not afraid. I don't think we will be arrested."
    
'Exercising her rights'
    
Despite being a supporter of Bo, Wang says she was originally driven to speak up for him because of a simple sense that he had been legally wronged.
    
Bo was dramatically sacked last year as Communist Party chief of the Chongqing metropolis following a scandal involving the murder of British businessman, for which Bo's wife was convicted.
    
Wang wrote two open letters last year decrying what had happened to Bo, after which she was detained. Upon being released, Wang was flooded with messages from supporters and sympathizers of Bo, someone about whom she admitted she had previously known little.
    
"Everyone told me what kind of man Bo Xilai was - they were all ordinary people. Only then did I start to understand him," Wang said. "I went from having an objective, legal point of view when talking about him, to becoming a supporter."
    
"But I'm not a fan because fans are not rational and I'm rational."
    
Wang said she had never met Bo but declined to comment when asked if she had met any of Bo's relatives following his dismissal.
    
She went to Chongqing to meet Bo supporters in June last year, but was forced back to Beijing and put under house arrest for about a week, during which time she staged a hunger strike and ended up in hospital.
    
Bo, a "princeling" son of a former vice premier, was once a rising star in China's leadership and had cultivated a following through his populist, quasi-Maoist policies.
    
He was jailed in September for life on charges of corruption and abuse of power after a dramatic fall from grace that shook the ruling Communist Party. Bo had denied the charges. It was not immediately clear if Bo would accept the chairman's role in the new party.
    
Han Deqiang, a Beijing academic who has been one of the most ardent defenders of Bo's policies when he was Communist Party chief of Chongqing, knows Wang as a passionate supporter of Bo.
    
Han said he was not a member of her new party.
    
"She's been very brave and very resolute. She's really an astonishing person," Han told Reuters.
    
"I know she is not worried about being taken away. She believes that everything she is doing is in accordance with the constitution. She's simply a citizen who is exercising her rights in accordance with the constitution, including the right to set up a party."
    
Totally different
    
Activists have been jailed in the past for setting up political parties, although parties have never before coalesced around fallen top political figures.
    
One of China's most prominent dissidents, Xu Wenli, was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 1998 for helping to organize the opposition China Democracy Party.
    
More recently, a group of dissidents helped organize the "Charter 08" movement, calling for sweeping political reforms. One of their leaders, Liu Xiaobo, was jailed for 11 years in 2009. A year later he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
    
Wang said her party was totally different because she was not seeking to repudiate the Communist Party.
    
"There was Charter 08 - I think their motives were good, but the way they went about things was definitely wrong," she said, adding she was in favor of direct elections for the country's rubber stamp parliament, the National People's Congress.
    
The Zhi Xian Party was formed on Nov. 6, just three days before the opening on Saturday of a key conclave of top Communist Party leaders to discuss much-needed economic reforms, including how to further push back the state's involvement of the economy, something leftists have fought hard against.
    
"Privatization is against the constitution. State-owned enterprises are the lifeblood of China's economy," Wang said.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More