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Choice is reform or upheaval, says Wen

Addressing his last press conference, outgoing Premier indulges in frank talk on matters concerning country. Sutirtho Patranobis reports.

world Updated: Mar 15, 2012 01:41 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times

Outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao warned Wednesday of another Cultural Revolution in China if political reforms were not carried out simultaneously with economic reforms.

Millions of Chinese were persecuted and displaced during the 1966-76 controversial Cultural Revolution carried out under the diktat of Mao Tse-tung.

“Now reforms in China have come to a critical stage," Wen said, warning: "Without a successful political reform, it's impossible for China to fully institute economic reform and the gains we have made in these areas may be lost, and new problems that popped up in the Chinese society will not be fundamentally resolved, and such historical tragedies as the Cultural Revolution may happen again in China.”

He was addressing a packed press conference at Great Hall of the People, the Chinese Parliament, at the end of the annual session of the country’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress. Wen, a politician for 45 years, seemed emotional occasionally during the three-hour long press conference; he quoted poems, blamed himself for the government’s mistakes in the past decade and repeatedly said he would continue to serve the country.

It was Wen’s last press conference, and he took the opportunity to focus on several domestic issues plaguing the country: rising income disparity, problems in the housing market and rising rural debt.

On reforms, he said that as the economy continues to develop problems like income disparity, lack of credibility and corruption had crept in.
"I'm fully aware that to resolve these problems, we must press ahead with both economic structural reforms and political structural reforms, in particular reforms on the leadership system of the Party and the country," he said.

Wen will be replaced during the Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) later this year after finishing his 10-year-term.

Although after the arrest of the Gang of Four (Mao’s wife and three other leaders), the Party adopted resolutions on many historical matters, and decided to conduct reforms and opening-up, the mistake of the Cultural Revolution and feudalism have yet to be fully eliminated.

"The reform can only go forward and must not stand still, less go backwards because that offers no way out."

The only reference to India also came during when Wen mentioned -- and what the Chinese leadership sees as -- a domestic problem: Tibet.

Referring to the dozens of cases of self-immolation, Wen said that the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamshala of India was in nature a theocratic one, both under the direct control of Dalai Lama or under his indirect influence. “Its purpose is to separate Tibet and the Tibetan-inhabited areas from China. We have a firm position and principle on this matter," he said.

“The young Tibetans are innocent and we feel deeply distressed by their behaviors," Wen said, adding that Tibet (or the Tibetan Autonomous Region) and the Tibetan-inhabited areas in the four provinces of Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan are inseparable parts of China's territory.

On question related to the Chinese directly electing their leaders, he said China will implement the rural villagers' self-governance system and protect their legitimate rights of direct election. The practices at many villages showed farmers can succeed in directly electing villagers' committees, he said, adding if the people could manage a village well, they can do well in managing a township and a county.

First Published: Mar 14, 2012 16:05 IST