The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A stag party' Well, almost

Beijing, Nov. 8: Brinda Karat of the CPI(M) would have made common cause with them. Except that none of them would dare protest the way she did when she opted out of the party’s central committee at its Calcutta congress in 1998 to protest the male domination.

But more and more women are complaining that it is mostly a stag party here too. Mao Zedong at least paid lip service to the fair sex with his slogan: “Women hold half the sky”. In the New China, women party leaders struggle for their place in the sun.

Not the men in their black suits and tie, but some of the women delegates were the star attractions of the opening ceremony of the Chinese Communist Party here this morning.

As the delegates began arriving in their buses, followed by the leaders in their black limousines,outside the Great Hall of the People, these women sent off cameramen jostling and scurrying for closeup shots.

They posed obligingly for pictures, unfazed by the cold wind and the bright morning sun glittering on their colourful traditional dresses, head dresses and gold and silver ornaments. Some of them were from the party committees in Tibet, some from inner Mongolia and others from ethnic minority areas like Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

But that is about all as far as women’s visibility in the party goes. “Not quite,” argues party spokesman Ji Bingxuan. “The number of women delegates to the party congress has been rising every time.”

Statistically, that is true. There are 382 women among the 2,115 delegates, accounting for 18 per cent of the total. But the rise in the women’s number from the last congress is just 1.3 per cent. But there is just one woman, Wu Yi, in the 21-member politburo. But there is none on its all-powerful, seven-member standing committee.

In fact, there never was a woman in the politburo in the party’s 80-year history. On the 193-member central committee, there are only nine women. Women delegates to the congress are hoping that education minister, Chen Zhili, may be elevated to the politburo this time to bridge the gap.

To the party, though, the bigger problem is that fewer and fewer women are joining the party, particularly in the urban areas, says a diplomat. “It’s true of large numbers of the youth, but more so for women who love good dresses, food and music better than party work,” he quips.

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