Xi Jinping, newly elected leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Tuesday admitted abuse of power among some officials and pledged to promote the authority of the Constitution and the rule of law.
"The supervising mechanisms and systems ensuring the Constitution's implementation have not been perfect, and there are still phenomena of lawlessness, lax enforcement and not punishing law-breakers in a timely fashion," Xi said at a congress marking the 30th anniversary of the Constitution's implementation.
Some officials have been abusing their power and seriously damaging the authority of the country's laws, and the awareness of the Constitution among citizens, including some government leaders, still needs improvement, Xi said.
As corruption and violation of people's basic rights have triggered increasing public anger in recent years, scholars have pointed out that China does not lack laws and regulations. As long as the Constitution, which guarantees people's freedoms of speech, press, religious belief and association, among other rights, are respected and strictly followed, the people can live a much more worry-free life, they said.
Xi echoed this concern and said Tuesday that the Constitution must be respected or there would be no guarantee of people's rights and freedom, and the ruling Party and the country would also suffer a setback.
"We must firmly establish throughout society the authority of the Constitution and the law and allow the overwhelming masses to fully believe in the law," Xi said.
Xi's remarks were received with a mixture of hope and caution on the Internet Tuesday night. Chen Zhiwu, a professor of finance at Yale University, said he was impressed by Xi's announcement, as it is the first time a high-profile comment on the Constitution has been made by a top leader in years.
"But we must start with opening up the media, protecting freedom of speech and ensuring the independence of the judicial system," he wrote on his Weibo.
Separately, the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee released eight rules on leaders' working style on Tuesday at a meeting calling for reforms within the Party in order to be more connected to the public.
Besides doing away with extravagant receptions and meetings, the Political Bureau drew the public's attention by saying that news reports about top leaders should be decided by their newsworthiness and social impact, and should be kept as simple and clear as possible.
This is the first time the bureau has released such detailed regulations at this level and is of great significance to the Party's working style construction, Wang Yukai, an anti-corruption expert with the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times.
"It means that the country's top leaders will change their working style to set an example for grass-roots government officials," Wang said.
The eight rules included aspects of the Party officials' work such as improving research and investigation, and demanded that they go to places where debates and questions were concentrated.
The regulations also required officials to simplify their meeting agendas and reports to avoid bureaucratic jargon, while strictly forbidding the holding of conferences under the name of the CPC Central Committee. During conferences and local investigation tours, extravagant measures are strictly forbidden and visits should be made as simple as possible.
On October 18 this year, officials were seen walking on a 100-meter-long red carpet at the inauguration ceremony of a reservoir in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, quickly making them a target of criticism online.
Lin Zhe, an expert at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, agreed on the importance of the eight rules but suggested they be more detailed and public opinions be included to monitor Party leaders.
Diplomatic visits should be reasonably arranged and officials should take public transportation, and it is unnecessary to arrange for Chinese enterprises, students or other people to greet visiting dignitaries at the airport on normal occasions, according to the rules.
Wen Ya and Bai Tiantian contributed to this story
The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) passed eight guidelines in a meeting yesterday, including improvements to their working style and relationship with the public, which won public applause.