China will never embrace multiparty democracy or have an independent judiciary, the leader of the country's parliament has said yesterday.
In a speech aimed at enshrining one-party rule at all costs Wu Bangguo, officially number two in the Politburo pecking order behind President Hu Jintao, warned that any move to adopt Western-style democracy risked undermining China's economic achievements and plunging the country into chaos.
"If we waver . . . the fruits of development that we have already achieved will be lost and the country could even fall into the abyss of civil strife," Wu told the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, which he heads.
"On the basis of China's conditions, we have made a solemn declaration that we will not employ a system of multiple parties holding office in rotation," Wu added as nearly 3,000 delegates listened in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.
Hopes for political reforms in China were raised last year after the country's premier, Wen Jiabao, made a speech in the southern city of Shenzhen arguing for the necessity of political reform for China stable development, an idea he repeated in an interview with CNN.
Mr Wen warned at the opening of the annual parliament last week that the Party needed to tackle "excessive concentration of power and lack of checks on power" if it was to create a more inclusive, socially stable society.
China's leadership frequently vows to become more transparent, increase anti-fraud controls and make its officials serve the people more diligently, but balks at submitting itself to the rigours of a free media or an independent judiciary.
Civil rights groups that monitor China have warned that in the last three years the ruling Party has grown visibly more intolerant of dissent, neutering organisations that could pose any challenge their authority.
Media controls have tightened, online censorship has deepened, lawyers who represent cases against the state have been arrested and harassed and civil society, including NGOs, has been subject to growing levels of scrutiny and control.
Last month, in a key speech to senior Party leaders, China's president Hu Jintao urged officials to "improve social management capabilities" in order to foster "healthy opinions".
In recent weeks, China's rulers have taken all possible steps to prevent any kind of Middle East-style "jasmine" protests, detaining dissidents, increasing online censorship, harassing journalists and deploying huge numbers of police and plain-clothes security.