Amending China’s Constitution – A step in the right direction. A very small step.

China is going to amend its constitution to protect private property rights and acknowledge the equal rights of all of its citizens. On paper, anyway.

The latest proposed amendments are significant in that they will remove some of the last vestiges of a communist society, which does not recognise private ownership of property and places peasants and workers, the proletariat, above all other groups.

It sounds good, and it can only be seen as a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, the changes are more a formality than anything else; it doesn’t look like they open any new doors for meamingful change or reform:

While the proposed changes are generally applauded, advocates of democracy and other political reforms are disappointed that nothing is being done to overhaul the creaky and outdated political system itself.

According to Mr Cao Siyuan, an independent consultant pioneering in research in constitutional reforms, the current proposals merely rectify the incongruity between reality as it exists and what the Constitution says it should be.

Yet in terms of protecting civil rights and limiting the power of officials, there is little progress, he told The Straits Times. Similarly, he said, the political leadership has also not addressed the many calls for greater administrative transparency and free dissemination of information.

These have become important concerns following the Chinese government’s initial mishandling of the Sars outbreak earlier this year.

Everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others. The corrupt officials remain protected, and the poor people being thrown out of their homes uncompensated to make way for shiny new malls and high-rises will not be anymore protected than they were before. Let’s hope that all these baby steps eventually result in change that really means something.

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