Chinese Premier Wen cites 'political reform,' urging officials to obey laws, fight corruption

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has urged officials to obey the law and fight corruption in an effort to further political reform he said was necessary for the country's success.

Wen did not specify what he meant by reform, but his remarks reflected Beijing's concerns that widespread public unhappiness over rampant corruption and a lack of transparency and accountability in the government poses a threat to Communist rule.

"Without political system reform, reforms in the economic system and other fields and even the modernization drive will not be successful," Wen said at a national meeting on lawful administration.

The meeting took place Aug. 28 but Wen's speech was only posted on Sunday on the central government's website.

Wen warned against allowing corruption to breed in the government. "In a peaceful time, corruption is the greatest danger for a ruling party, and the basic reason for corruption is that powers are not properly supervised and restricted," he said.

The premier said governing according to the rule of law is key to combating corruption, but he did not go into specifics. China's courts are controlled by the Communist Party.

Calls for political reform have occasionally been made and steps taken in recent years to strengthen the legal system and increase the government's responsiveness, but the moves were aimed at strengthening one-party rule.

Senior leaders have repeatedly rejected Western democratic models, with the head of the rubber-stamp parliament, Wu Bangguo, saying two years ago that China will never be a multiparty state with separation of powers, nor will it have an independent judiciary.

The Communist government has carried out limited political reforms in recent years, allowing nonpartisan elections for the lowest-level village leadership posts. But the Communist Party controls policymaking, and harasses and jails activists who call for multiparty democracy.