In his last year in office after a decade-long stint in power, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is batting for democracy at the village level and has called for reform and opening-up of the closed society failing which it would hit a "dead end".
In comments that came during a visit to the southern Guangdong province, Wen highlighted the need to ensure voting rights for farmers, and direct election of village leadership, which he labelled as an important task for local authorities.
"Opening-up and reform should be implemented unswervingly, or there will only be a dead end," Wen said, evoking path breaking moves by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, whose economic reforms overturning Mao Zedong's hard-line Marxian ideology propelled China to be world's second largest economy.
The Premier spoke of farmers' voting rights, direct election of village-level leadership and self governance, a rare vocabulary in the tightly controlled one party system.
The comments assume significance as they come close on the heels of an incident in Guangdong's Wukan village, where villagers rose in rebellion against the local party leadership and drove them out.
Regarded as a liberal among hardliners in the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), Wen said furthering reform is the only key to solving problems at a time of global uncertainties and also called for determination and boldness to push forward reform and opening-up, state-run Xinhua said.
Wen, 72 will retire this year after a decade long stint as Premier. He along with President Hu Jintao and his generation of party leadership is set to retire towards the end of this year to pave way for new blood.