By Christopher Bodeen, AP
BEIJING — China’s ruling communists on Wednesday forwarded a list of candidates for top posts to delegates at a national congress that will determine the party’s — and country’s — future leaders, giving members a modicum of choice in choosing a new lineup.
In a break with traditional secrecy, state media announced that the list of Communist Party members recommended to join its Central Committee had been approved by a panel of senior leaders handling congress arrangements, though the list itself was not released.
The announcement was in keeping with the baby steps President Hu Jintao has taken to bring a degree of transparency to the party’s usually opaque decision-making.
Opening the congress Monday with a 160 minute speech, Hu dwelled on the authoritarian political system’s need for more democratic processes, but not Western-style democracy, to cope with a fast-changing society.
The move appeared aimed at showing the party as “more rule-bound, more beholden to the process,” said Ding Xueliang, a Chinese politics analyst with the Carnegie Foundation for Peace in Beijing. “It helps back up the concept that the party is moving ahead with intraparty democracy.”
Outside the closed-door deliberations in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, however, authorities pressed ahead with a renewed crackdown on dissent waged in the run-up to the congress.
A housing activist and underground Christian preacher, Hua Huiqi, was beaten by police for the second time in a week when he tried to leave his house where he is under house arrest, said his wife, Wei Jumei. “They are doing this because of the 17th Party Congress but also because police asked him to cooperate by providing a list of petitioners and Christians he knows, but he refused,” Wei said.
The moves in the congress and outside are characteristic of Hu’s era. The party has talked about reform and accepts carefully couched criticisms from people within system while suppressing those seen as threats.
Wednesday’s announcement that a candidate list for Central Committee spots had been finalized sets in motion an arcane, closed-door process that will play out over the congress’s remaining four or five days to select top leaders.
State-run China Central Television showed Hu and the other members of the congress Presidium raising their hands to approve the list.
The names will be passed to the more than 2,200 delegates for deliberation, CCTV said. After a Central Committee, usually of about 400 full and alternate members, has been chosen, the congress then selects a Politburo, which currently has 24 members, and a Politburo Standing Committee, which currently has nine seats and is the apex of power.