Dog bites, fake goods to the fore

If elected, what would you do to make sure dog owners control their pets?

Will you get rid of the graffiti scribbled along my building's corridor?

How will you be able to help if I find out I've bought counterfeit goods?

These are just some of the questions candidates contesting seats in the people's congress in Bajiaobeili community on Bajiao Street in Beijing's Shijingshan District fielded last Saturday.

The community's small conference room was packed with about 100 residents on Saturday morning, mainly elderly people.

The residents came to hear, see, or sometimes even grab, the four candidates before the final vote tomorrow.

"Under election law, candidates can meet voters before the final vote," said Guo Jinzhong, who works in the Beijing municipal election office, which oversees the election.

The candidates are either recommended by political parties and organizations, or need nominations by at least 10 registered voters.

Beijing's local election regulations stipulate that the number of candidates nominated by political parties and organizations should not exceed 20 per cent of the total meaning at least 80 per cent of the city's final deputy candidates will be nominated by voters.

"This regulation guarantees that more congress members will be ordinary people, better reflecting what grass-roots voters think and want," said Guo.

The election law also stipulates that at least a third more candidates than there are seats must stand in district and township level people's congress elections.

The people's congress has the power to endorse the appointment of local officials, it also supervises the work of local governments, courts and procuratorates.

Congress members can raise proposals for discussion at their regular meeting every year.

For this precinct, the third of the 10 precincts of Bajiao Street, three members will be elected out of the four candidates.

They will form just a minute part of the congress, with more than 8 million citizens registered to vote on November 8, electing 4,403 congress members from 18 districts and counties and another more than 10,000 from 183 villages and towns.

Saturday's meeting, with the 100 residents representing the nearly 3,000 registered voters in the precinct, could prove crucial in deciding which one of the candidates will not make the final cut.

Resident Li Hongying, 66, said she only knew one of the four candidates, Wang Yujuan, 58, Party secretary for the community.

"For the other three, we have received written material," said Li, who represented 12 households in her building. "We can't all come at once because there's nowhere big enough to hold 3,000 people."

Li said she had passed the election material door to door and would tell her neighbours what had happened at the meeting later.

After the four candidates finished introducing themselves and describing what they would do if elected, the questions began.

Most questions centred on everyday problems, like the disturbance caused by dogs, annoying advertisements and smelly garbage.

"Our strategy is to ask dog owners to regulate each other; we have established a volunteer team consisting of more than 20 dog owners, who are required to persuade other dog owners to walk their dogs in a civilized manner," said Wang Yujuan.

Wang, a former drama actress, who has been elected four times before, said she once turned down a good job as an activity planner at an amusement park to return to the community.

"I just want to do something for the community," she said.

During her last four stints on the local congress, Wang said she had raised 38 proposals to improve the government's service for local people, 26 of which were accepted.

Li Jianhui, 44, another candidate, is deputy head of an urban management inspection team in the area. He said his nomination, by his team, could be due to his popularity in the area.

"Things that take the others a whole day to do usually take me just five minutes," he said.

"A member of the people's congress should be capable of solving problems efficiently."

Li said that since July, when his team began working with the telecommunications department, they have cancelled more than 1,100 telephone numbers printed on advertisements scribbled or stuck to walls, a remarkable deed hailed by locals.

"Now I can say no adverts can be found along the main roads or on important buildings," he said.

Yuan Zhigang, 31, a PE teacher in a local primary school and a newcomer in this year's election, said his advantage lay with his fearless character.

"Courage and capability, I believe, are necessary for a member," he said. "After more than 15 years of teaching PE, I think I have enough strength and courage to speak for the people,"

Zhao Jing, 71, a local resident, said: "Sanitation and a safe environment are all what we care about.

"A member of the people's congress should care about what we care about, and dare to put our proposals to the government.

"We don't want exuberant promises we need a problem solver for our needs.

"I hope they can fulfil what they promise if they are elected."

The scene is a miniature window on the nation's vast ongoing election process for district, county and township level congresses, which takes place once every five years.

According to the schedule drawn up by the National People's Congress (NPC), all county and township congress members will be elected by December 31, 2007.

Around 900 million people will vote in county elections, and 600 million in township elections, according to NPC statistics.

More than 2 million deputies will be elected.

This year's is the most extensive grass-roots direct election ever, since the Constitution was amended in 2003, expanding township congress deputies' term to five years beginning from next year, according to the NPC.

Congress members, the country's legislators, at district, county and township levels, are directly elected; while congress members at the higher municipal or national level, are indirectly elected by the members of the levels below.

China's 19 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities had either finished or were just starting county and township congress elections by the end of September, according to information from the NPC.

County and township congress elections have already come to an end in Jilin and Qinghai provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

To enable all voters to better perform their election rights, some provinces have reformed election procedures.

In Jilin the number of deputies who are government officials can not exceed 25 per cent of the total number of deputies, ensuring grass-roots congresses have a solid proportion of workers, farmers and intellectuals.

The province has also decided that at least 25 per cent of county and township deputies should be female, so as to protect women's political and democratic rights.

In Beijing, election staff have visited every household to register voters, ensuring registration errors such as registering voters twice or missing voters, did not occur. Migrant workers in Beijing have been allowed to vote in local legislative elections since 2002, as long as they have stable work and can show a valid voter ID issued in their hometown.

In the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, a major migrant output region, staff working for the election went door to door to ensure people who are working outside the region will come back to vote or entrust others to vote in their place during the election.

Source: China Daily



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