Skip to content Skip to navigation

Dissenters silenced as party sings Jiang's praises

November 11, 2002

Hamish McDonald

Chinese police kept a tight watch for protesters outside the Communist Party's congress in Beijing, arresting half a dozen people seen trying to distribute leaflets on Tiananmen Square outside the closed-door meeting in the Great Hall of the People.

In addition, security agencies had cracked down on potential dissident voices across China, arresting some well-known activists and tightening surveillance of others, the New York-based group Human Rights in China said.

The party congress began on Friday to carry out a leadership transition previously worked out among party powerbrokers over the northern summer. It will also rubber-stamp President Jiang Zemin's new ideology embracing private enterprise, known as the Three Represents.

After Mr Jiang's two-hour opening speech on Friday, little of the proceedings has been made public. So-called discussion groups held on Saturday heard only ringing endorsements of Mr Jiang's speech, with his likely successor, Vice-President Hu Jintao, calling it "good guidance for building a well-off society and boosting socialist modernisation".

The congress runs until its 2134 delegates elect a new 200-member central committee on Thursday, which then holds its first meeting to choose a new politburo and seven-member politburo standing committee. Only then will the outcome of extended powerbroking become clear.

The valedictory tone of Mr Jiang's speech and praise for his achievements over 13 years at the top suggest he will step aside for a new generation, while making sure the politburo standing committee is stacked with leaders who will preserve his policies.

Most Chinese seem disengaged from the congress. But a handful have made their dissent known. Uniformed and plainclothes police swarmed onto one woman who knelt outside the Great Hall on Friday and scattered some leaflets, and bundled her into a police van. Five others were also seen being taken away after trying to hand out leaflets.

Beijing police, meanwhile, detained the Christian activist Hua Huiqi and his wife, Ju Mei, on Thursday for the duration of the seven-day congress, said Hua's mother, Shuang Shuying, 72. She said the pro-democracy activist He Depu had also been taken away. Human Rights in China said another activist, Fang Jue, had been detained, with Xu Wanping, a signatory to an open letter urging the party to reverse its condemnation of the 1989 democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.