Chinese officials may have to pledge allegiance to constitution

BEIJING - Chinese officials may have to pledge allegiance to the constitution when they take up their posts, state news agency Xinhua said on Wednesday, reporting a draft law being considered as part of a campaign to stamp out abuses of position.

If parliament approves the bill, Xinhua said officials will have to take a "public oath of allegiance".

China has designated Dec. 4 National Constitution Day, to serve as a reminder that "no organisation or individual shall have the privilege of being placed above the constitution

There is no suggestion that Chinese leaders are contemplating Western constitutionalism.

China's constitution guarantees a range of basic freedoms, including of expression and assembly, but in reality most of these are ignored by the courts and security services, which are loyal first to the ruling Communist Party rather than the state.

An influential party journal warned in 2013 that Western values, such as constitutionalism and democracy, would only foster political unrest, greater corruption, and ethnic strife in China.

In 2013, a party document leaked to media, known as Document No.9, criticised Western constitutional democracy as a threat to the party's grip on power.

The first article of China's constitution bans "disruption of the socialist system by any organisation or individual".

Xinhua did not specify how the government will monitor the implementation of the constitution. The government is also in the middle of a sweeping campaign against deep-seated corruption.

Parliament almost never rejects draft laws, though more controversial ones can end up being amended before they are eventually passed.

Last year the ruling Communist Party pledged to improve the supervision of the constitution under the National People's Congress, the country's largely-rubber stamp parliament.

Rights groups said these claims ring hollow, given the recent crackdown on freedom of expression. Last year a court jailed a filmmaker who made a documentary on China's constitutional governance.