Premier Wen Jiabao called on Monday for freedom and real democracy in China, despite Beijing clamping down on dissent this year, as calls were made for a Jasmine revolution similar to uprisings in the Arab world.
Speaking on a visit to Britain, Wen also said corruption and income disparities were harming people's lives in China.
Without freedom there is no real democracy and without the guarantee of economic and political rights there is no real freedom, he said in a speech in London.
To be frank, corruption, unfair income distribution, and others ills that harm the people's interests still exist in China, he told an audience at the Royal Society, an institution devoted to scientific development and promotion. The best way to resolve these problems is to firmly advance the political structural reform and socialist democracy under the rule of law, Wen said, who is also due to retire next year.
Amongst China's ruling elite, Wen is known for his reformist tendencies, his earlier speeches and editorials stressing the need for political reforms to safeguard economic growth.
Ahead of Wen's brief visit to Europe, China release artist and dissident Ai Weiwei last week, whose detention brought widespread criticism to China from abroad. And one of China's most prominent dissidents, Hu Jia, was freed on Sunday, after serving three and a half years in jail on charges of subversion.
Fearing that uprising across the Arab world would also inspire challenges to China's one-party rule, China's Communist Party has been cracking down on dissent since February. But, Wen, who retires next year after almost 10 years as premier, predcited that China will an have an improved democracy and rule of law in the the future.
Tomorrow's China will be a more open and inclusive, culturally advance and harmonious society and country, Wen said at a news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron. A country or a nation will only grow and progress only when it is open and inclusive.