After 90 Years, Graft Threatens China's Communists The Communist Party in China is celebrating its 90th anniversary. Inside the Great Hall was the official celebration. But in another section of Beijing, one party member used the occasion to protest what he says are corrupt party officials.
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After 90 Years, Graft Threatens China's Communists

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After 90 Years, Graft Threatens China's Communists

After 90 Years, Graft Threatens China's Communists

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

NPR's Louisa Lim reports from Beijing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LOUISA LIM: The band played as party elders filed onto the stage today at the Great Hall of the People. Downstairs, Zhang Wei was waiting nervously, an enormous red corsage pinned on his jacket. He was about to be honored for his 36 years of service to the party - first as a farmer, now as a bank worker. He sums up the Communist Party's achievements.

ZHANG WEI: (Foreign language spoken)

LIM: It's made Chinese people stand up, it's made them rich. And now it's made China strong, he says.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

LIM: The great and the good have gathered to hear President Hu Jintao's speech. Its key message: success in China hinges on the party. This is the party's moment in the sun, the official celebrations.

D: Dedicated to the party's 90th anniversary. Above that is painted: Save me, Communist Party.

WANG JINSHU: (Foreign language spoken)

LIM: I did this to embarrass the Communist Party, says Wang Jinshu. Three years ago, she and her husband were informed their house would be demolished for a road-widening project. They were never shown any proper legal permits. And the official plan showed the wider road still lay 30 feet from their house, but their objections got nowhere. The pair was detained and while in custody their house torn down. She believes the ordeal was a factor contributing to the deaths of her mother and father-in-law. Her verdict on the Communist Party is scathing.

JINSHU: (Through translator) It's rotten through and through. They don't care how many laws they break. Nationwide, how much farming land has been taken from us? What are we farmers supposed to eat?

LIM: Their plight is not unusual. One official survey found forced evictions are the biggest source of discontent in China. But this couple are reluctant protestors. Indeed, her husband, Wang Jiang, is still a Communist Party member, as he's been for the past 30 years. He believes, though, the party is communist in name alone.

WANG JIANG: (Through translator) I don't know if today's China is socialist, capitalist or feudal. Now their behavior is totally feudal. It's a dictatorship. They don't let you speak. They can just throw you in prison. Now it's like that.

LIM: Chen Baosheng, vice president of the Central Party School, the training ground for China's officials, blamed this not on Greece but on a breakdown in communist values.

CHEN BAOSHENG: (Through translator) Of course some party members have become corrupt, but the fundamental cause is their faith and ideals have collapsed. That's not unusual.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTORS)

LIM: Despite this, Russell Leigh Moses, dean of the Beijing Center for Chinese Studies, believes there's no real risk to the Communist Party.

RUSSELL LEIGH MOSES: Observers on the outside tend to see unrest and upheaval as a real indicator of a system starting to spiral out of control. I don't think that's at all the case. When the party deals with dissatisfaction, it confronts it in a fairly clever way. It tends to crack down in some ways but it also tends to open up. The more unrest there is, the more the party has experience in dealing with this.

HU JINTAO: (Foreign language spoken)

LIM: Louisa Lim, NPR News, Beijing.

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