It still seems incredible to Li Xueju when he recalls the scene a decade ago:
A dozen farmers from Liaoning Province in the north came to the Ministry of Civil Affairs in Beijing to file a lawsuit against their village committee because the committee failed to follow election procedures.
The farmers could even recite - to the letter - the "Provisional Law on the Organization of Villagers' Committees," he said.
The farmers told Li, who was an official with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, that the law provided a kind of protection, as well as a kind of right for them.
Li, now deputy secretary and Standing Committee member of Communist Party of China Chongqing Municipal Committee, told Xinhua News Agency:
"After 12 years' exploration, the system of villagers administrating their own affairs is on the proper legal trail, which has also become a model with Chinese characteristics."
Since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, the country has experienced a period of difficulty in village committee construction, said Zhan Chengfu, an official for grassroots democracy from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
He added that with the abolishment of the people's commune system, China started the village committee system in 1978, which let villagers run their own affairs. The village committees, the most grassroots mass organization in rural areas, govern the most important life and production elements, including money, grain, houses and land.
In 1988, China promulgated the Provisional Law on the Organization of Villagers' Committees.
Li Xueju also pointed out that villagers administrating their own affairs is a signal of rural grassroots reform.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs issued a circular in 1990 calling for the country's rural areas to extend the policy of villager administration.