"Its really hard for all those who are not farmers and do not live in the countryside to come to understand what farmers' heavy burden was and what agriculture tax meant to farmers," said Shen Jilan, 75, a solely woman deputy who had been to the top legislature for consecutive ten annual sessions.
The senior villager-turned deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC) sessions, who has worked for the half past century for her co-farmers, hailed on Sunday the Chinese government's decision on the steady reduction of agricultural tax and its eventual abolishment in five years.
Shen is a very popular public farmer figure well-known in the country. Her first attendance to the NPC session was back in 1954 as an illiterate farmer picked by locality from an outlying hard-up village in north China's Shanxi province. She then rode to Beijing, the national capital, on the back of a donkey.
After over five decades of learning and sustained, painstaking practice, she is now able to read newspapers, speak as any other lawmakers on behalf of farmers, and lobby for their rights and interests in the capacity of an NPC deputy.
"Because I've never left my home village and farming, I know very clearly how my fellow farmers felt," said the veteran deputy who supports herself and her mother-in-law by tilling a tiny plot of land with an acreage of one-fifteenth hectare.
With a high sense of responsibility, Shen tabled three motions to the current NPC session, appealing to the government to increase investment for agriculture, build more roads in rural areas, and pay still greater attention to education in the countryside.
Unlike the senior woman farmer, Gao Dekang, an astute farmer deputy from China's largest manufacturer of down-padded anorak from east China's Jiangsu Province, viewed the issue pertaining to agriculture, rural areas and farmers from a different approach. The fundamental way out for farmers hinges on their self-reliant effort, vigorous growth of rural economy and solution to the shift of rural labor force to other economic sectors, he explained.
At the current NPC session, Gao handed over a motion to suggest the government prop up the use of biological wastes from livestock farms, in compliance with a scientific concept of development advocated by of the Chinese central leadership.
Gao, a noted middle-age farmer entrepreneur in the prime of life, has experimented with building an eco-friendly "new-type village”. For the past few years, he spent approximately 100 million yuan (nearly US$12 million) to build his home village, Shanjing Village, into an environment-friendly, model "Kangbo village", in which more than 400 folk households have moved into new villa houses furbished with public utilities out of complete environmental and biological concerns.
"The problems and difficulties in rural areas cannot be resolved overnight unless villagers obtain equal rights with urbanites," said Gao. He called for utmost efforts to develop rural economy in varied forms and transferring the excessive rural labor forces into village-based industries.
Shen and Gao are not the only legislators lobbying for the rights and interests of the rural population. While surfing on the NPC webpage, one can often find that quite a large number of motions and proposals are focused on the issues regarding agriculture, rural areas and farmers.
To investigate into a host of problems in the countryside, quite a few lawmakers have traveled extensively, on their own costs, to solicit complaints in preparation of bills based on ideas and opinions from rural villagers.
"Chinese farmers are fortunate," said an observer on farmers' issues, "because a large number of NPC deputies are following them closely all the time, and lobby on their behalf in legislative and advisory sessions every year."
(Xinhua News Agency March 14, 2004)