China's rule by law boosted by equal political rights and equal life compensation in urban and rural areas

08:11, October 30, 2009      

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Equality has become a catchphrase when Chinese lawmakers mull over two major moves in the history of China's legislative progress.

Chinese rural and urban people are about to get equal representation in lawmaking bodies. It means farmers will have the same say in the country's decision-making process as urbanites.

At the five-day legislative session beginning Tuesday, members of national legislature discussed to give rural and urban people equal representation in people's congresses.

A draft amendment to the Electoral Law was tabled at the bimonthly meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee. It requires that both rural and urban areas adopt the same ratio of deputies to the people's congresses.

The electoral system is the foot stone of democracy, and the principle of equality is a prerequisite to guarantee people's democratic rights.

The Electoral Law was enacted in 1953 and completely revised in1979. It then underwent four minor amendments.

Senior people are still nostalgic about the bean-counting way of electing their representatives in villages, which was the country's primitive mode of democracy after New China was founded in 1949.

Candidates who stood for election as deputies to a people's congress were elected if they received more than half of the beans.

Later voters began to use ballots.

After the last amendment in 1995, the law stipulates that each rural deputy represents a population four times that in urban areas.

That means in China, every 960,000 rural residents and every 240,000 urbanites are represented by one rural and urban NPC deputy respectively.

Critics say this can be interpreted as "farmers only enjoy a quarter of the suffrage of their urban counterparts."

During previous amendments in the 1980s, the difference was even as great as eight times.

But Li Shishi, director of the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the NPC Standing Committee, said such a provision is "in accordance with the country's political system and social conditions of that time" and is "completely necessary" as the rural population is much more than that of cities and an equal ratio of rural and urban representation will mean an excessive number of rural deputies.

Rural population made up almost 90 percent of the country's total in 1949. With the process of urbanization, the ratio of urban and rural residents was about 45.7 to 54.3 last year.

Li said that with rapid urbanization and rural economic development, the time is right for equal representation, which is conducive to "mobilizing people's enthusiasm and creativity" and the development of democracy.

Zhou Hanhua, a research fellow with the Law Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the draft amendment is inline with social change, and "from the legal perspective it shows that all rights are equal under the law."

Obviously, the change will be a significant political progress and it is in line with the constitutional spirit that "everyone in the nation is equal."

It also reflects the transition of the country's urban and rural society.

According to the law, the number of deputies to the NPC is limited within 3,000, and the distribution of NPC deputies is decided by the NPC Standing Committee, the top legislature.

The draft amendment says the quotas of NPC deputies are distributed to 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions on the basis of their population, which ensures equal representation among regions and ethnic groups.

Another big issue that lawmakers deliberate at the session this week is to grant "equal compensation" to the victims of traffic, mining and industrial accidents as well as medical negligence, among others, regardless of the victims' identity, status, income and regional disparity.

The proposal is specified in the draft on tort liability, which is deliberated by members of the NPC Standing Committee for the third time.

Farmer victims normally get much less compensation than their urban counterparts. And there are often disputes from "different prices paid to different lives."

At the session, lawmakers consider to set the same compensation for all victims of an accident that results in many deaths.

It will be a significant step if the draft law on tort liability is adopted by the legislature, as it ensures equal rights for each Chinese and shows respect for every human life.

Source: Xinhua
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