Public to see if deputies fill seats

08:38, February 23, 2011      

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This city's legislature has become China's first law-making body to publish the attendance records of deputies in an attempt to better hold public servants to account.

A circular released on late Tuesday night by the secretariat of the annual session of the local people's congress showed that 481 deputies attended the congress' morning plenary session, while 22 asked for leave and two were absent without excuse.

On Monday, 494 deputies had attended the congress' morning plenary session, while seven had asked for leave and four had been absent without excuse.

The deputies who had asked for leave on Monday to undertake official business included Xu Ruisheng and Gong Erzhen, both vice-mayors of Guangzhou, and three other local government officials. Meanwhile, Lian Weifei, Chen Yunxiang, Chen Guijiang and Lu Jinnan, each a senior executive at local companies, had been absent without excuse.

Chen Yunxiang, chairman of Guangdong Kemei Industry Corporation, said she was caught in a traffic jam on her way to the congress' morning meeting. She later attended an afternoon session.

Chen Guijiang, executive deputy manager of Guangzhou JFE Steel Sheet Co Ltd, told reporters he could not attend because he had been on a business trip.

He said he had faxed a note asking for leave in advance but was told his request did not comply with the rules.

Of the 125 non-voting deputies to the local congress on Tuesday, 107 attended, while 17 asked for leave and one was absent without excuse, according to the Tuesday circular.

Lei Jianwei, a deputy, said the publication of attendance records is a step toward transparency in the legislature.

"Guangzhou has more than 10 million people and some 500 deputies on the people's congress," he said. "That means that one deputy is responsible for more than 20,000 people."

"Deputies are among a small group of people who have the right to discuss and decide public and governmental affairs," Lei said, adding that the delegates should expect and accept public scrutiny.

"The publication of attendance records shows the public which deputies are not regularly voting during the annual session."

Lei said the decision is also a sign that Chinese legislatures, which usually meet behind closed doors, are becoming more willing to submit to public scrutiny.

"The move will strengthen discipline among deputies, ensuring that they fully carry out their duties," he said.

Liang Zuoyu, a disabled deputy, said it was his duty to be present at the people's congress.

"Guangzhou has some 520,000 disabled people," he said. "As one of the deputies representing the disabled group, I must take up my responsibilities."

In August, the standing committee of the Guangzhou people's congress called for the publication of the attendance records of the deputies assigned to its annual sessions and for the resignation of standing committee members who had failed to attend three or more sessions in a year and had been unable to furnish acceptable excuses.

Chen Shu, a lawyer and a deputy to the National People's Congress, told Xinhua News Agency that deputies have the right to ask for leave, but have to comply with legal procedures and obtain approvals in advance.

"Since we exercise these rights on behalf of the people, we must perform our duties accordingly," Chen said.

Guo Weiqing, a professor at the Sun Yat-sen University, said the decision is a step toward transparency.

"People will be able to better keep an eye on the conference," he told Xinhua News Agency. "The bond between the deputies and the people will tighten."

Song Jihuai contributed to this story.

By Qiu Quanlin, China Daily
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