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Rural elections undermined by bribery, official manipulation: lawmakers

  时间:2006-03-17 14:20    来源:     

Alarmed at the cases of buying votes and official manipulation in village elections in certain areas, some Chinese lawmakers have called for amending the country's rural election law and even the Criminal Law to guarantee "true democracy" in the countryside.

"In some villages, candidates spend more than 100,000 yuan (12, 500 U.S. dollars) or even several hundred thousand yuan campaigning for the post of village chief, the monthly pay for which is at most several hundred yuan," said Liu Xiguang, a deputy to the 10th National People's Congress (NPC), the Chinese legislature in its annual full session here.

According to Liu, director of a district civil affairs bureau of Zhangjiakou City, North China's Hebei Province, such "weird phenomena" are not rare in villages which are located on the junction between city and countryside or in the areas boasting rich mineral resources.

"It's apparent that what the candidates are actually seeking is the power to control the village's land and mineral resources, which they can trade for cash and other personal benefits," said Liu.

China's rapid economic growth and urbanization process have brought about soaring demand for resources, such as coal, and land for construction purposes.

Those village officials who have come to power through bribing the voters are mostly "dictatorial and corrupt," said Liu.

He also slashed some local governments at the township level, which according to law shoulder the responsibility of "providing guidance for village elections." They were accused of either turning a blind eye to the problems in the elections or even " exerting influence to help their favorite candidates win the elections."

Such malpractice of the township governments was often "driven by interests," said Liu, whose bureau is in charge of overseeing village elections and promoting rural democracy.

"If the township governments are not cooperating, the civil affairs departments will have much difficulty in performing their duty of supervision and guidance," conceded Liu.

He expressed worries that if such problems couldn't be solved in a timely and effective manner, China's practice of rural democracy, which has lasted for nearly two decades, will be seriously undermined, and the country's latest campaign of " building a new socialist countryside" will also be crippled.

Echoing Liu's views, Guo Fenglian, a female lawmaker from North China's Shanxi Province, has warned that China must first train its village heads in some 680,000 villages to be "honest, clean and competent" before the "new countryside" goal can be attained.

"The key to building a more developed, civilized and democratic countryside lies in the competence as well as personal integrity of the village chiefs," the 60-year-old Guo, head of Dazhai Village, Xiyang County of Shanxi, told Xinhua in an earlier interview.

According to the central government's budget plan, in 2006 alone China will spend 339.7 billion yuan (42.46 billion U.S. dollars) on rural development. But some NPC deputies have worried that the huge funds might be misused or intercepted by officials at various levels before reaching the farmers.

Liu, the NPC deputy from Hebei, suggested that the existing law on the organization of villagers' committees, which guides the rural elections, be amended to further standardize election procedures and better guarantee the "democratic management of village affairs" following the elections.

Zhu Huiqiu, another NPC deputy, also submitted a motion to the ongoing NPC session, calling for adding a new article into the country's Criminal Law, to make "sabotaging village elections" a crime.

In 1988, China granted farmers the right to directly elect or oust their village heads and members of the villagers' committees, launching a democratic process which is designed to usher in a " complete self-governance" of the countryside.

Statistics from the Ministry of Civil Affairs show that by the end of 2004, more than 700 million Chinese farmers have cast votes in several rounds of village leadership elections.

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