In 2008, a group of Chinese intellectuals drafted a manifesto demanding deep reforms and calling for the implementation of constitutionalism in China whereby the Party’s power would be restrained by a higher system of laws. In response to this document—called “Charter 08”—the government cracked down on charter signatories, imprisoned future Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, and interrogated at least 70 others. Further discussion on constitutionalism was muted.
This year, President Xi Jinping’s comments in support of legal reform have reignited the debate. Reformists have long believed that adherence to the constitution would bolster the Communist Party’s credibility, but conservatives now argue that constitutionalism is unsuitable for socialist countries, even suggesting that American intelligence agencies are backing it to subvert Beijing. A recent comparison of articles shared on Sina.com, home of popular microblogging platform Sina Weibo, suggests the Chinese public appears to be in favor of reform. And, in the latest development, support for constitutionalism has caused the suspension of an outspoken law professor.
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Our Constitution is essentially void.