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Former Beijing legislator calls for human rights action
Jim Middleton speaks to Wu Qing.

Wu Qing, a former China People's Congress legislator and women's rights activist, has labelled China a third world country because of its uneven spread of wealth.
Transcript
JIM MIDDLETON, PRESENTER: China's new leadership has promised action and reform over the next 10 years to reduce the huge income inequality in the country, and to spread the benefits of wealth to more of its citizens.

Wu Qing is a former Beijing legislator and an activist for women's rights.

Wu Qing, very good to be talking to you.

WU QING, FORMER BEIJING PEOPLE'S CONGRESS LEGISLATOR: Nice meeting you.

JIM MIDDLETON: You have said that China is going through a period of crucial enlightenment. What do you mean by that?

WU QING: I think we need a very long enlightenment in terms of empowerment and in terms of citizenship training, because we have to raise the awareness every single person and try to encourage them to become citizens.

Why call them citizens? Because citizens are those people who know about their rights as well as their responsibilities.

JIM MIDDLETON: How does that all sit with the new leadership of president Xi Jinping who has promised both action and reform during the 10 years he's likely to be in office?

WU QING: Actually, this question has been asked many times by media people from different countries. My answer is: I never pin my hopes on one individual. I want the system to be changed. The system has to be rule of law that guarantees freedom and democracy of the people. And we need mechanism, a mechanism that really works to ensure rule of law.

So there have to be many changes. Number one, we also need a constitutional court so that it will review all the existing policies and laws to make sure that they all coincide with the main principles that have been clearly stated in the Constitution.

JIM MIDDLETON: A constitutional court, adherence to the rule of law.

WU QING: Right.

JIM MIDDLETON: Is that something that you think the current leadership, the new leadership, would be prepared to countenance given it would have a significant impact on the influence of the Chinese Communist Party?

WU QING: I think the judiciary has to be independent. And media, the media has to be really to play the role of watchdog, because with absolute power there's absolute corruption.

JIM MIDDLETON: More than once Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang have talked about the devastating impact of corruption and the need to take action on that front, that corruption indeed could itself destroy the Communist Party.

WU QING: Right.

JIM MIDDLETON: Are the early signs from the new leadership that they mean what they say? Are they taking steps which give effect to the words they have spoken?

WU QING: You know, I think there are mixed results. For instance, four people just got arrested. Why? Because they have demanded the leadership to especially people at top positions, should tell people about their property. Transparency.

It means that we still do not have freedom of speech, freedom of protest. And that's why I said I'm waiting for action, real action, to guarantee that people have the right to speak.

JIM MIDDLETON: Another issue: the environment is clearly a question of great concern to the Chinese people.

WU QING: Right.

JIM MIDDLETON: Do you think, though, that the Party leadership was taken by surprise when, at the recent National People's Congress, there was such a protest vote over that key committee, the Environment Protection Resources Conservation Committee; so nearly a third of delegates voting no to the proposed make up of the committee?

WU QING: I don't think they should be surprised because they all live in Beijing. Actually, I think they have also suffered. So I think that proves that the speedy growth in a way actually is sort of achieved at the expense of having the environment destroyed.

JIM MIDDLETON: Let's talk about the role of women, a particular interest of yours, for a moment. There do appear to be a lot of women in leadership roles, particularly in business, but that's not the entire story for China. Why is it, then, that you think that China is a third world country when it comes to the status of women in general?

WU QING: Actually, China, to me I think China is a third world country all around. You can't just look at GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Once it has been divided by the population, perhaps we are 100 behind the number. Because, you know, I think traditionally women's role is in the home. Although after 1949 Mao said women holding up half of the sky, yet, people do not have gender awareness.

Especially in China, you know, we don't have enough concept of human rights, means every single person, regardless of their sex. Right? So I think, for example, now, if you look at political bureau, seven people are all men. Even if we do have women among the top leadership, how much gender awareness do they have?

JIM MIDDLETON: So, in a practical sense, what do you think can be done? What can people like you do to raise the status of women in China to bring this to a situation more closely approximating equality?

WU QING: I think most important thing is to empower women, to change mindsets. I think we need to change mindsets on every single male and female. Especially female, because to me I feel if I want to change China, I have to change the rural areas. If I want to change rural areas I have to change women. Majority of the farm labourers are women. So if you teach one woman you teach whole family and generations to come, because mothers are children's first teachers.

JIM MIDDLETON: Wu Qing, it has been a pleasure talking to you. Thank you very much.

WU QING: Thank you.
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