Eight in 10 Chinese want political reform: survey

Eight out of 10 Chinese want political reform, according to a survey published Wednesday by a state-run newspaper, adding to growing calls for change on the eve of a once-in-a-decade leadership transition.

The poll published by the Global Times newspaper found that 81 percent of people in seven major cities said they supported political reform, with 66 percent feeling the government should face greater public scrutiny.

The Global Times is linked to the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, and the decision to publish the results appeared to indicate the party wanted to be seen to be acknowledging the calls.

But while party leaders routinely voice vague lip service to some form of future political reform, the Communists retain iron-clad control of Chinese power and multi-party democracy is firmly off the agenda.

The party on Thursday will open its five-yearly congress, the most important political event in the country, which will this year unveil a new leadership line-up for the coming decade.

But the organisation has faced increasing calls for changes to curb an apparent rise in corruption and to spur economic growth, which recently slowed to its lowest quarterly rate since 2009.

As Americans elected US President Barack Obama for a second term, the Global Times did not specify what type of reforms its respondents backed.

However, it added 69.3 percent of respondents felt anti-corruption measures needed to be strengthened.

Earlier this week, Hu Deping, son of late former party chief and reformer Hu Yaobang, issued a bold call for political change.

Hu, a top reform voice, wrote in the respected Economic Observer weekly that "there are too many times when power becomes bigger than the law, when the power of the party and government interferes with the judicial process".

Hu -- whose father's death in 1989 helped spark the Tiananmen Square democracy protests -- said the Communists needed to cast off the trappings of China's imperial past and make progress on constitutional governance.

"The basic task of the Chinese Communist Party is to make continuous efforts to advance the establishment and implementation of socialist constitutional government... this is also the demand of the times."

During the congress, President Hu Jintao -- no relation to Hu Deping -- is widely expected to hand over the reins of the party to his vice president, Xi Jinping.

Xi is expected to then be named president of the nation early next year.

Some elements in the ruling party are widely believed to favour some form of political reform to bolster its legitimacy, but the exact nature of any internal debate remains unknown due to the organisation's extensive secrecy.

Analysts said much of the pressure stems from the belief that Hu has failed to enact economic and political reforms needed to ensure steady growth and social stability.

Influential intellectuals also have stepped up calls for reform in recent months.

After corruption, respondents to the Global Times survey ranked a widening rich-poor gap and an inadequate social safety net as China's most pressing problems.

A separate survey reported by state media on Tuesday said most Chinese people see the income gap as the country's main problem.

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