- The Washington Times - Monday, March 9, 2009

China will never become a Western-style democracy, the head of the country’s rubber-stamp parliament said Monday, an apparent response to renewed calls for political reform from both inside and outside the country.

In an address to the annual nine-day meeting of the National People’s Congress, Wu Bangguo laid out extensive arguments seeking to justify China’s one-party communist system and draw clear distinctions with multiparty political systems in the West.

China, he said, would never introduce a system of “multiple parties holding office in rotation,” nor would it allow a separation of powers among the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, or a legislature made up of lower and upper houses.

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Wu’s remarks emphasizing the primacy of the “path of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” appeared to be a deliberate rebuttal to critics at home and abroad calling for greater liberalization, including legalizing opposition parties and direct elections for legislative bodies.

His remarks on the issue were considerably longer than in last year’s address, in which he made only passing reference to China’s rejection of separation of powers and a bicameral system.

Wu also appeared to rule out moves toward greater judicial independence, saying the all-powerful Communist Party would continue to dictate standards and priorities that it expected courts and prosecutors to adhere to.

“The Western model of a legal system cannot be copied mechanically in establishing our own,” Wu said.

Wu’s address enumerated the work of the NPC’s Standing Committee, the 74-member body that handles legislative business when the almost 3,000-member NPC is not in session. NPC members are carefully vetted and mainly serve to discuss and approve decisions already reached by the party leadership.

Wu said China aimed to establish a “legal system of socialism with Chinese characteristics” by next year, achieved through enacting and revising legislation rather than structural adjustments.

He said top legislative work this year would focus on drawing up laws covering social programs such as health care, pensions and education.

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