It is the afternoon of June 17, 2004. Twenty-four people sit on a rostrum in a courtyard at the Wuyanquan township government building in Yidu City, Hubei Province, in central China. They are all local representatives of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
Facing them to answer their questions are seated officials from the Organizing Department of the CPC Yidu Municipal Committee, including the department head. Over 20 retired local village officials are in attendance to act as auditors.
This was an inquiry meeting convened by the Party representatives of the Wuyanquan Township. For an hour and a quarter the officials answered questions raised by the local representatives on the local issue of retired rural officials' allowances.
"I'm a cadre subject to the administration of the Municipal Party Organizing Department. But today I'm here as a Party representative authorized to supervise the work of that department. I had no reservations about doing this and they had to answer my questions without beating about the bush. I've been pretty well satisfied by their answers," said Liu Yingchun, a representative from the Panjiawan Tujia Autonomous Township.
A written survey was conducted immediately after the meeting. In their responses 23 of the representatives conducting the enquiry said they were "satisfied" while one was just "basically satisfied." Among the 25 auditors, 18 were "satisfied," six "basically satisfied" while just one was "unsatisfied".
Local Party members applauded the inquiry meeting.
"In the past, Party meetings were rather monotonous affairs. The representatives just sat there for several days reading documents with breaks to watch opera performances. And they were only 'in post' for the duration of the meeting. Now the term of office for Party representatives runs for five years and meetings are convened annually. Moreover, the previous rubber-stamping exercise has now been replaced by such serious political activities as liaison, appraisal, reporting and scrutiny of performance. Now that the Party members' rights have been guaranteed, their enthusiasm for public administration has really come to the fore," said one of the participants.
Here are some examples:
In Luotian County of Hubei Province, nine Party representatives from Heyangpu Town have inquired of local government departments three times about a couple of local administrative issues.
Zhou Weiguang, a Party representative from Xiaojiayuan Village queried the Township Urban Construction Office on why the needs of some local households with newly built houses had not been met. He also asked the Township government why the construction of a major local highway had been delayed. The township government accepted his suggestions and took timely action to remedy the problems.
Another Party representative, Liu Aiguo suggested that the township government should build a new gas station. His suggestion was also accepted and work has started on the construction of a new gas station with an area of 1,000 square meters.
The new system of standing representatives is a pilot program of reform initiated by the Organizing Department of the CPC Hubei Provincial Committee. It has been introduced in five cities at county administrative level, and in the province's counties of Yidu, Luotian, Yunmeng, Jiayu and Xianfeng.
According to the guidelines for the program:
·Party representatives are directly elected for a term of five years.
·Municipal Party committee members are chosen by the Party representatives.
· Municipal Party representatives meet annually to make major local administrative decisions, to review major local administrative issues and to appraise the performance of both municipal Party committee members and municipal Party discipline commission members.
·Party representatives can submit proposals to municipal Party committees with follow-up inquiries if they are not satisfied with the way their proposals have been handled.
Officials with the Organizing Department of the CPC Hubei Provincial Committee said they will further develop the system and make it a regular institution in the future.
(China.org.cn by Chen Chao, June 28, 2004)