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Chinese Farmer Regains Right to Vote
By going to court, Ye Ajin, a 42-year-old farmer in east China's Zhejiang Province, has finally regained his right to vote in the local village committee election.

The local court delivered Ye a written verdict, saying that he has the lawful right to vote and to stand in the election of a newvillage committee.

This is the first case in Zhejiang in which the judiciary has got involved in settling a farmer's dispute over political rights.

Ye, now still living in Xinghuo (Spark) village in Shencheng township of Rui'an city, managed to transfer his household registration out of the village several years ago.

However, he did not move out afterward for various reasons and went on living in the village as before, planting farm crops on a patch of land under contract and fulfill his routine village duties like other farmers.

In a recent election for the village committee's new term, Ye was not listed among the qualified voters because he has no household registration in Xinghuo village.

"Why can't I vote like the others?" Ye, who had only one year'sschooling, was seriously confused.

Then he asked a lawyer for help.

"I finally got it clear that the right to vote and to stand is an important political right, and is guaranteed by our Constitution," he said.

Ye asked the election committee and local township government to give back his political rights, and showed relevant legal documents to them, but he was still denied the right to vote.

Ye then filed a lawsuit in the Rui'an City People's Court, claiming he should be considered as an eligible voter in the election.

According to the local court, Ye can vote at either the place where he keeps his household registration or his current residencesince his political right has never been withdrawn.

"Although Ye Ajin has no household registration in Xinghuo village, his basic rights and obligations are closely tied to the place," said Lin Bo, the chief judge trying the case.

In China, even though the Constitution and the Civil Procedure Law specify detailed clauses ensuring the citizens' political rights, judicial authorities have seldom got involved in settling conflicts over political rights.

Courts in China usually refuse to handle lawsuits similar to Ye's, as they consider judging cases involving political rights to be a sensitive issue.

Zhao Shiyi, a doctor of law with prestigious Zhejiang University, said this case indicated that judicial authorities in China have been paying more attention to people's political rights,which explicitly showed the improved rule of law in the country.

More than 20 million farmers were now electing their new village committees in Zhejiang province, said Chen Ping, an official from the provincial civil affairs department.

In a large number of villages, almost all eligible farmers havecast their votes, Chen said, adding some farmers have appealed to higher authorities for help when encountering disputes over votingqualifications.

The Chinese farmers' enthusiasm for voting showed they had a strong awareness of political rights, Zhao noted. Farmers should be encouraged to settle such disputes through the courts.

Last month, the Chinese central authorities issued a notice urging all local authorities to abide by farmers' choices and ensure village committee elections run smoothly.

Sixteen provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions aroundChina, such as Zhejiang, Heilongjiang, Shaanxi, Hebei, Anhui and Hubei province, will hold elections for new village committees this year, according to sources.

(Xinhua News Agency September 5, 2002)

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