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Chinese political dissidents petition 16th Party Congress to allow reforms


BEIJING -- One hundred ninety-two Chinese political dissidents from 17 provinces and cities around China urged delegates to the 16th Communist Party Congress which opens on Friday to allow reforms including greater democracy and the release of prisoners of conscience.

The petition also called for an official reassessment of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests.

Signatories to the petition, released by New York-based Human Rights in China, included veteran activists Ren Wanding and Zhou Guoqiang as well as He Depu and Ma Qiang, members of the banned China Democracy Party.

The 16th Communist Party Congress is expected to announce a sweeping reshuffle of China's top leadership, among other changes.

Besides demanding compensation for those killed or hurt in the 1989 protests, the dissidents also urged the release from house arrest of ousted party head and reformer Zhao Ziyang.

Zhao was removed from power after he opposed the violent crushing of the Tiananmen protests and has not been seen in public since May 1989.

The government should also allow all exiled political dissidents to return home and free all prisoners of conscience, the letter said.

The dissidents also urged the government to ratify two UN human rights documents that China has already signed and expand village and municipal elections to the national level.

"We have raised these opinions and proposals because we strongly believe that the many serious issues facing Chinese society are rooted in one-party centralized rule," the letter said.

"(We believe) that through political reform and the realization of democracy all kinds of contradictions can be resolved and a social crisis can be averted," it said.