Chinese villagers make bold attempts at democracy

13:53, March 12, 2011      

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Outspoken but under-educated villagers gathered courage to speak out over who could be elected as village leaders and how village budgets should be allocated.

The rights to make such bold moves, attempted in various Chinese villages, were ensured by the People's Republic of China Constitution as well as "a complete set of types of laws."

Wu Bangguo, China's top legislator, said during the annual legislative session of the National People's Congress (NPC) that the world's most populated country had enacted 236 laws, over 690 administrative regulations and more than 8,600 local statutes by the end of 2010.

Nearly 3,000 lawmakers discussed how to effectively broaden democracy during the ongoing Fourth Session of the 11th NPC.


Xin Chunying, a law professor-turned lawmaker, told the press during the NPC session that by enacting the Mediation Law, for example, democracy could be strengthened at grassroots levels.

Her remarks have already been verified in both Sichuan and Zhejiang provinces where villagers chose local leaders by voting and debated how the government could spend public money.

Since December 1998, villagers of Buyun Township, in southwest China's largely rural Sichuan Province, have elected magistrates to manage township affairs and assign resources.

The 1998 township election in Sichuan was a landmark in Chinese direct elections, although at a grassroots level.

"Villagers were very enthusiastic about the election, though it was unheard of by us," Cai Jingquan, an organizer for the first election in Tandongzi Village, told Xinhua. "Over 1,000 people braved heavy rain that day and arrived at a ballot site to cast their votes."

Candidates had to announce their running policies to all voters at each election site, where zealous villagers bombarded sharp questions at them.

Those questions touched on nearly every aspect of daily rural life, from farming tools, road building and unlawful land seizure, to possible fraud and suspected corrupt officials.

Sichuan's success has spread township-level direct elections to many areas administered to by the provincial government.

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