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Chinese Economist Calls for Parliament Reforms - 2002-03-04

A mainland economist is calling for reforms in China's Parliament, by giving delegates more say in the appointment of leaders. The suggestions come ahead of an annual meeting of Parliament starting Tuesday in the Chinese capital.

Economist Cao Siyuan, a Beijing consultant on bankruptcy and mergers, says China should release in advance the names of candidates for top government posts. Mr. Cao says this would give delegates to the National People's Congress or NPC -- more time to evaluate candidates and help prevent corrupt individuals from assuming office.

Mr. Cao, who helped draft China's bankruptcy law in the 1980s, says that under the current system, many corrupt officials have no limits on their power. He says NPC delegates must vote to approve candidates for government posts within days of receiving the nominations. He says this is too little time to investigate whether or not the candidate has a record of corruption and is unsuitable for office.

Mr. Cao compares the annual NPC sessions to a rehearsed play, and says the three thousand delegates are like actors reading from a script, with little power to influence policy. He suggests that the government publish the names of several candidates two months ahead of the NPC meetings. He says this would enable delegates to research the nominees' backgrounds and engage in a genuine debate about their relative merits.

In theory, the NPC is China's highest organ of state power. But many analysts say the Parliament is largely a rubber-stamp body, that automatically approves Chinese Communist Party policies and personnel changes.

Mr. Cao -- a former Party member also calls on the Chinese Communist Party to begin separating its powers into legislative, judicial and executive arms. He says this would allow the Party to maintain its absolute hold on power. But he says a system of checks and balances within the Party would help prevent any one individual from having too much control.