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China’s most prominent activists, scholars and journalists have released an open letter urging leaders to implement political reforms, for the second time in three months.

More than 100 people signed the open letter urging Beijing to ratify an international human rights treaty.

The letter was posted on several prominent Chinese websites and blogs.

It comes just days before Chinese leaders gather for the annual parliamentary session in Beijing.

At the meeting, new Communist Party leader Xi Jinping will be installed as China’s president, taking over from Hu Jintao, completing the 10-yearly power transition.

“We solemnly and openly propose the following as citizens of China that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) be ratified, in order to further promote and establish the principles of human rights and constitutionalism in China,” the letter said.

The ICCPR is part of the International Bill of Human Rights created by the United Nations. It calls for basic civil and political rights of individuals, including freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

Beijing signed the treaty in 1998 but the Chinese parliament has never ratified the document.

The open letter was signed by many prominent thinkers in China, including economist Mao Yushi, legal scholar He Weifang and Dai Qing, an outspoken political activist.

In December, many of the same people also signed a strongly worded open letter demanding political reform within China, including an independent judiciary and meaningful democratic change.

“If reforms to the system urgently needed by Chinese society keep being frustrated and stagnate without progress,” December’s letter warned, “then official corruption and dissatisfaction in society will boil up to a crisis point and China will once again miss the opportunity for peaceful reform, and slip into the turbulence and chaos of violent revolution.”

China's most prominent activists, scholars and journalists have released an open letter urging leaders to implement political reforms, for the second time in three months

China’s most prominent activists, scholars and journalists have released an open letter urging leaders to implement political reforms, for the second time in three months

The language in the more recent letter was much more conciliatory, acknowledging the difficulties of enacting meaningful political change within China while also emphasizing that signing the ICCPR would be a “feasible” goal for Chinese leaders.

Journalist Wang Kexin said he was confident China’s leaders would ratify the ICCPR during the upcoming parliamentary session, a goal he acknowledged was “very mild and conservative”.

“We don’t dare to dream that China will make a lot of progress in one giant leap,” Wang Kexin said.

“The country develops step by step and our efforts are also aimed at changing things step by step. This is the embarrassing situation we are in now.”

He did not want to identify the person who first wrote the letter and collected the signatures, blaming his reluctance on “China’s special situation”.

According to the China Media Project, a group based at Hong Kong University which monitors the Chinese media, this week’s letter was scheduled to be released on Thursday.

However, the authorities reportedly heard about the letter early, leading its supporters to bring publication forward by two days. Mention of the letter has since disappeared from many internet sites within China.

Chinese parliament has formally expelled disgraced politician Bo Xilai from the top legislature, state media has announced.

The move strips the ex-Chongqing party leader of immunity from prosecution.

Bo Xilai was expelled from the Communist Party last month. State media said he was accused of abuse of power, bribe-taking and violating party discipline.

His wife, Gu Kailai, was jailed in August for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.

Bo Xilai’s former deputy, police chief Wang Lijun, has also been jailed in connection with the scandal, which came as China prepared for its 10-yearly power transition.

Legislators are due to meet on 8 November for a Congress at which the new top leaders will be unveiled.

The move to strip Bo Xilai of his last official position had been expected.

“The Standing Committee of the 11th National People’s Congress (NPC) on Friday announced the termination of Bo Xilai’s post as the NPC deputy,” said the brief statement from Xinhua news agency.

The action means that a criminal case against Bo Xilai – a former high-flier once tipped for the top echelons of power – can move ahead.

When he was expelled from the party last month, a statement said his “suspected law violations” would be transferred to “judicial organs”. A timescale for this process and any subsequent trial have not been announced.

Bo Xilai has not been seen in public since the investigation into him and his family was announced.

On Thursday the Washington Post, citing two people close to his wife’s family, said his relatives had been warned not to hire lawyers for him.

The investigation into Bo Xilai was triggered when Wang Lijun fled to the US consulate in Chongqing and implicated Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, in the death of Neil Heywood.

Gu Kailai was subsequently given a suspended death sentence for his murder after a one-day trial. Wang Lijun has been jailed for 15 years on a number of charges.

Bo Xilai had been seen as a leading candidate for a position in the party’s top decision-making body – the Standing Committee of the politburo – in the leadership change set for next month.

A charismatic lawmaker, his populist policies, crackdown on crime and promotion of “red” culture – harking back to the Mao Zedong era – brought him supporters.

His downfall was seen as exposing divisions between more reformist and more left-leaning groupings among China’s top leaders.