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Farmers' Zeal for Politics Grows
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One chilly morning in early December this year, villagers of Shuangtang village of Youth League County in Jiangxi Province gathered together from all directions to elect their new term of village committee.

Wan Zhongwen, a 55-year-old man, first voted for himself and then chose a different candidate to vote on behalf of his son, who was working in Guangdong Province at the time.

Wan voted for the current village committee members because he believed they were more experienced, while his son eyed younger candidates for their innovative ideas.

It has become a commonplace in China's rural elections that each member of the family votes for his or her own choice. In the village of Chenqiao in Jiangxi, Xu Xiesheng had an experience similar to that of Wan.

It used to be natural for him to choose the person he liked while voting on behalf of his son. But now things have changed. Not only the son has his own idea, but the wife and daughter-in-law all have their different candidates. "Now everybody cherishes the right to vote and tries to make full use of it," Xu said.

At the voting site of Shuangtang village, two village-head candidates were campaigning. After each of them gave a speech, villagers threw various questions concerned to them.

Then the voting began. The villagers walked in line to change their elector's certificates and trust deeds to votes. After carefully marked their votes, they put them into the ballot box.

After all the villagers finished their voting, the working staff immediately began to count, and declared the result publicly.

The candidates were all nominated and elected directly by the villagers themselves several days earlier.

"The villagers would not eat dirt if some village official dares to practice fraud. They will definitely demand another election according to law," said Cai Jianwu, an officer with the Civil Affairs Department of Jiangxi Province. He said this shows Chinese farmers, who account for the majority of China's population, have an increasing demand for political democracy.

Beginning from the latter part of 2001, the new round the village committee elections has been undertaking in China's rural areas. It is the first round of massive-scale elections since the enforcement of the Organic Law of the Villagers' Committee in 1998. Currently, such elections are undergoing in 25 provinces, concerning over 630,000 village committees and 400 million farmers.

According to Tong Baogui, director of the Civil Affairs Office of the Legislation Committee in NPC, China has accomplished a basic law framework and a legal system on the village committee election since the Organic Law of the Villagers' Committee was promulgated in 1998. So far, 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities have worked out relevant regional regulations.

With the protection of the law, Chinese farmers have become more enthusiastic in politics. Statistics show that averagely 80 percent of the rural people participated in the village committee elections; in Hainan province, the figure reached 95.6 percent.

Among the newly elected village committee members, the average educational level is higher while their average age is younger. Their comprehensive quality has risen. For example, in Zhejiang, one of China's prosperous provinces, 1,447 of the village committee members are graduates of college or junior college.

(china.org.cn by Zheng Guihong December 28, 2002)

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