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Tuesday, September 12, 2000, updated at 23:00(GMT+8)

Vice Premier Urges Local Governments to Cut Levies on Farmers

Reducing the financial burdens on Chinese farmers is an imperative government task, said Vice-Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday.

Wen made the remark at a teleconference on reducing the financial load on farmers. A report was delivered to the meeting about major incidents concerning the financial load on farmers in the second half of 1999 and the first half of 2000.

Wen, who is concurrently a member of both the Political Bureau and Secretariat of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, urged local Party committees and governments at different levels to see the significance of the issue by taking into political and overall considerations.

The situation in the countryside is generally sound, though, there are some problems that must not be ignored, such as the difficulty for farmers to increase their incomes, excessive levies by local governments, simple and rough style of work of local officials which have resulted in a series of violent incidents in some areas, according to the vice premier.

The key to cutting farmers' financial burdens is to carry out the central government policies on rural taxation, with the average levy not surpassing five percent of the total annual income of the farmers and the budgetary figure of 1997, he noted.

All the extra charges by local authorities must be waived and returned to the farmers, Wen said. Local governments must not levy illegal taxes on farmers in any form, he added.

He also talked about the reduction of taxes on farmers in disaster-hit areas.

The official emphasized that to reduce the financial load on farmers, the taxation system must be reformed, by streamlining relations on distribution between the state, the collective and the individual.

Local officials should be taught to improve their awareness about central government policies and the law, which is a guarantee for reducing the farmers' burdens, he noted.

The majority of Chinese farmers are not wealthy, he said. "We must give more to farmers and take less from them," he stressed.

He also urged local officials to learn how to deal with confrontation in the countryside under new circumstances. Leading local officials must go to the site whenever a major incident involving groups of farmers occurs, he said.

Wang Gang, director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee, presided over the meeting.

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Reducing the financial burdens on Chinese farmers is an imperative government task, said Vice-Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday.

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