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Farmers Win Lawsuit Against County Office
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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 said.

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)

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