One step nearer equality (2)

08:34, October 28, 2009      

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The current imbalance in representation among China's lawmakers started in 1953 when the first version of the Electoral Law was passed. At that time, the number of people represented by each rural NPC deputy was eight times the number represented by each urban deputy. Back then, there were eight times more Chinese living in the countryside than in cities.

In 1953, Deng Xiaoping, the then vice-premier, said: "To some extent, the different representation is unequal. But only such rules can show the true picture of our country."

Li said yesterday the provision was "in accordance with the country's social conditions then" and was "completely necessary" at the time because the rural population greatly outweighed the number of people in the cities. If such a rule was not in place, urban deputies would have been greatly outnumbered.

By 1995, the old ratio of eight rural Chinese for every urban resident had narrowed. Fourteen years ago, there were four rural Chinese for every urbanite. Today, figures from the National Bureau of Statistics show the ratio of urban-to-rural residents has closed still further and experts expect parity by 2015.

"With the rapid development of urbanization and economic growth, it is now the right time for equal representation," said Wang Zhenmin, a constitutional law professor from the law school at Tsinghua University.

Wang said the change being discussed by the NPC was "major political progress" toward achieving the Constitutional stipulation that everyone in the country enjoys equality.

Currently, quotas are distributed to 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities according to the size of their population. The People's Liberation Army, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan also send deputies to the NPC, but they each have a set number.

Cai Dingjian, director of the Constitution Research Center of China University of Political Science and Law, said the change will have a major impact.

"For example, quotas for Beijing and Shanghai, which have a small rural population, may decrease while the quotas for big rural provinces, such as Sichuan and Anhui, may increase."

Xu Chongde, a law professor with Renmin University of China, said the change seems to bring China closer to equal representation.

"But how the quota will be distributed remains unclear, so it's still too early to say the revised law achieves equality in substance," Xu said.

Source: China Daily
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