Critic urges China Communists to abandon dictatorship

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BEIJING, Oct 24 (Reuters) The emergence of China's likely next generation of leaders at the Communist Party's just-ended conclave is no cause for celebration yet, the most senior official jailed over the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests said.

Bao Tong, once a top aide to purged Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang and now an outspoken critic of the government, urged the Party to dump its dictatorial ways.

''I think it is not only not frightening for a party to voluntarily abandon dictatorship, but (the move) will also bring the dying (party) back to life and a future without limits,'' Bao wrote in a commentary circulated on Chinese language Web sites overseas, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

''What is most important is all citizen have rights to speak freely and walk their own path within a legal framework.'' Bao's sceptical reaction to the Congress was a reminder that the Party's new and more youthful elite -- revealed after a five-yearly Congress in past days -- will also face constant pressure from critics over how they handle dissent and the sensitive legacy of 1989.

Zhao was toppled and Bao jailed for seven years for their opposition to sending in troops to crush the pro-democracy protests on June 4, 1989. Zhao died in 2005 after more than 15 years under house arrest. He was replaced by Jiang Zemin, who in turn retired in 2002 to make way for Hu Jintao.

Two next generation leaders -- Shanghai Party boss Xi Jinping and Liaoning provincial Party boss Li Keqiang -- emerged at the 17th Party Congress as possible successors to President Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao when the latter give up their Party and government jobs in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

''Maybe the new people the 17th Congress elected are far from mediocre and can truly achieve feats that will shake heaven and earth ... but now there is no basis to predict and no basis to form a judgment,'' Bao wrote.

The Congress failed to address major problems troubling ordinary people and the leadership, wrote Bao, a thorn in the government's side who is placed under tight police surveillance round-the-clock.

The Congress did not answer questions such as why the country's wealth gap was yawning or why many ''multi-millionaires have cropped up but manual workers who sweat and sacrificed the most are unable to free themselves from the mud pit of poverty''.

The world's most populous nation, with more than 1.3 billion people, cannot survive without exports and foreign investment and would have ''difficulty breathing'' without them, he wrote.

The Communists swept to power in the 1949 revolution on the coattails of workers and peasants, but Bao asked why they have become ''disadvantaged groups with no one to rely on, without a voice and obscure, and bullied by the rich and powerful''.

Bao also took the Party to task for cracking down on negative news reports. Media and book censorship have become the Party's ''art of governing'', he added.

Reuters ARB GC1121

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