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Wen Says China Should Allow People to Criticize Government

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said people should be allowed to criticize their leaders, echoing similar pledges he’s made in the past.

China should “create conditions allowing the people to criticize the government,” Wen said, according to a statement issued by China’s cabinet about a meeting today to discuss its annual work report.

Wen and other Chinese leaders have pledged greater transparency and more attention to disputes between citizens and local officials in an effort to reduce social unrest that could erode the Communist Party’s claim to power. Rights activists and U.S. officials have criticized the country for what they say is a worsening rights record.

In comments to the Charlie Rose show earlier this month, U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke said there was a “significant crackdown and repression going on within China.” Human Rights Watch said last year that China is seeing “the largest crackdown on dissent in over a decade.”

At a press briefing marking the end of parliamentary meetings in March last year, Wen said China must “create conditions for the people to criticize and supervise the government” in order to eliminate corruption. He also said the nation needed to pursue “institutional reform” and that any “political restructuring” must be done in an orderly way and under the Communist Party’s leadership.

Speaking at the Royal Society in London last June, Wen said that allowing people to criticize the government would make authorities live up to their responsibilities.

Strikes, demonstrations and other protests doubled to at least 180,000 in 2010 from four years earlier, according to Sun Liping, a sociology professor at Beijing’s Tsinghua University.

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