A group of Communist Party elders in China have issued a bold call to end the country's wide-ranging restrictions on free speech, just days after the government reacted angrily to the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo.
In an open letter posted online, the retired officials state that although China's 1982 constitution guarantees freedom of speech, the right is constrained by a host of laws and regulations which should be scrapped. It called on the National People's Congress, China's legislature, to scrap restrictions on publication and implement a system of post-facto review as many other nations did long ago.
Censorship has become so reflexive and restrictive that even passages urging political reform were expunged from official media reports on speeches by Premier Wen Jiabao, the letter said. Wen has drawn attention in recent weeks with a series of unusually direct calls for the communist system to evolve.
"Not even the nation's premier has freedom of publication," the letter said.