Retired Cadre Criticize CCP for Stifling Debate and Ignoring the Poor

In an open letter to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Politburo Standing Committee, 170 retired senior cadre denounced the current government’s economic policies as unfair toward the working class and harmful to the environment, adding that they had departed drastically from the original socialist values of Mao Zedong. The signatories of the letter, which included former government ministers, intellectuals, and senior officials, are considered”leftists” within the CCP who hold dearly to orthodox Communist ideals, including Mao’s teachings. In their letter posted on the leftist website Maoflag.net—promptly shut down by the government a few days later—the Leftist officials singled out the policies of Deng Xiaoping as having been responsible for instituting the liberal economic reforms, and the ensuing exploitation of China’s workers by the wealthy. Former President Jiang Zemin was also not immune from criticism, with the letter calling for Jiang’s “Theory of the Three Represents” to be removed from the CCP’s constitution. Li Chengrui, 85, a former director of the National Bureau of Statistics, was one of the signatories of the letter who publicly condemned China for being “a capitalist society in the disguise of socialism.” “China’s capitalism,” he said, was “bred in the days of Deng Xiaoping, grew under Jiang Zemin and is ripe in Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao’s regime” (South China Morning Post, October 10).

This is certainly not the first instance in which members of the CCP’s old guard have been openly critical of Beijing’s policies. Li Rui, 89, who once served as the personal secretary of Mao Zedong, has attracted considerable attention in recent years with calls for the CCP to embrace free speech and political reform. Prior to the ongoing Party Congress, Li Rui had also submitted a separate letter to the leadership calling for the CCP to liberalize the political system of the country (see Willy Lam, “Hu’s Disappointments at the 17th Party Congress”). Yet, the growing number of protests from the CCP’s retired ranks has done little to affect the Chinese leadership’s policies, with the latter even attempting to stifle the critics. In his interview with Agence France-Presse, Li Rui lamented the lack of free speech and healthy debates in China, saying, “Before I die, I want to express my views…why can’t we debate freely? Marx was not afraid to debate” (AFP, October 15). Li emphasized his concerns, stating, “It makes me want to shed tears when I see a Community Party like this…they don’t have to listen to us but history is ruthless, only regimes which respect their people will last.”