Farmers in Xiguan village, northwest China's Shaanxi
Province, won their lawsuit against the Dali County Civil
Affairs Bureau for negligence of duty in failing to investigate
their allegations of misconduct in village elections.
Experts consider the win significant, showing that farmers'
legal consciousness is improving and that they are paying more
attention to the importance of their votes.
On January 1 of this year, Xiguan village held a pre-election
conference for the new village committee. Among the five candidates
for director, Zhang won 468 tickets and Ji won 367, according to
Wang Jiancang, one of the farmers.
However, in the formal election held on January 7, Ji won 573
tickets and Zhang won only 432.
Many Xiguan villagers suspected there was bribery involved.
"The day before the formal election, someone came to my home and
told me that some tickets were needed and I would be paid 50 yuan
(US$6) if I filled out the ballot as he required," said a villager
who refused to be named.
Several other villagers had similar experiences.
On January 8 and February 2, several dozen villagers, led by
Wang Jiancang, made an oral report on the situation to the Civil
Affairs Bureau of Dali County. However, the bureau did not
investigate the matter, Wang said.
As a result, 301 Xiguan villagers filed a case with the
Intermediate People's Court of Weinan Prefecture on April 12,
alleging that the bureau had been negligent.
"We asked the court to decide whether the bureau had done its
duty in accordance with the law and we asked the court to confirm
and announce in accordance with the law that the results of the
Xiguan village committee election are invalid," Wang Jiancang
The Intermediate People's Court of Weinan Prefecture appointed
the People's Court of Heyang, a neighboring county of Dali, to
handle the case. The public hearing took place on August 10.
The court ruled that directors of the Dali County Civil Affairs
Bureau and its employees had been negligent in performing their
duties by failing to investigate the allegations of bribery.
"According to legal provisions, the bureau should have taken
action on the case," the court said.
On September 2, the court ordered the Civil Affairs Bureau to
investigate the circumstances surrounding the election within 20
days after the judgment came into effect.
(China Daily September 15, 2004)