( dpa ) - Chinese leaders should use their new power to allow democratic elections and freedom of expression, a former top aide to purged party leader Zhao Ziyang said in a rare telephone interview heard on Friday.
Communist Party leader and President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have much more power to introduce reforms than Zhao had as premier in the late 1980s, Bao Tong told the Chinese service of German international radio broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
"They always say that China can't have democratic elections because China's people's education level is too low," Bao said in what was believed to be his first interview with foreign media this year.
"Even when the party's Central Committee elects a general secretary, it is a single-candidate election," he said. "So when will democratic elections come to China?
"All the people in the Central Committee have doctorates or master's degrees yet they still can't enjoy a free, equal, democratic, anonymous and competitive election because we don't have the right conditions?" Bao said.
"I don't know what conditions we should have," he said.
Bao was interviewed on the third anniversary of Zhao's death.
Zhao was purged from his post of party general secretary in 1989 after opposing the use of force to stop the Tiananmen Square democracy protests. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest.
"When Mr Zhao wanted to do things, he faced big difficulties," because of the strong authority exerted by then supremo Deng Xiaoping, Bao said.
"But things are different now," he said, adding that the new leaders "have now become the core (of the party)."
"So if they want to do something, they can do it," he said.
Bao said the 17th five-yearly congress of the ruling party, presided over by Hu last October, had asserted people's broad right to free expression.
"I think I have the right to (free) expression," he said. "I also hope that my compatriots all have the right."
Bao told Deutsche Welle that his telephone was still under 24-hour monitoring by security officers and hoped that his complaint would be "heard by relevant departments".
Contacted by telephone on Friday by Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, Bao said he was "too busy" to talk but willing to receive an interview at a later date.
The 1989 protests ended when troops with tanks and live ammunition moved through Beijing overnight on June 3-4, 1989, reportedly killing hundreds of unarmed civilians who allegedly blocked their route.
Demonstrators had urged the government to end corruption and allow democracy and other political and social rights.
But Bao said corruption in China appeared to be just as serious as it was in the 1980s.
" China now has two special features: the first is its prosperity, the second is its corruption," he said.
At the congress in October, Hu again promised to expand democracy and transparency within the party, but he made no mention of any wider democratic reform.
Party leaders have prevented activists from holding public events to mark the anniversaries of Zhao's death.
They also continue to reject calls for an investigation into the 1989 crackdown.