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Democracy Spreads in China's Countryside
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"Six yuan for tax notebook, nine yuan for gummed tape, 15 yuan for steel wire", reads on a bulletin board of Baigezhuang village, Shunyi District of Beijing.

"All the expenses of our village in the past year have been made public on bulletin boards," said secretary of the village. "Village affairs should be transparent, the open democracy' shown on the bulletin board is not complete, democracy in people's heart is the real one."

The democracy in people's heart mentioned by the secretary is embodied in the villagers' committee election. Though the village has only 300 residents, many of them are enthusiastic for each year's election.

The first round of election is to choose candidates for the villagers' committee by way of secret ballot. After thorough consideration, villagers will vote for the most qualified and respected ones.

The most satisfied village chief will finally be selected after rounds of elections. After that, a supervision group composed of three qualified, capable villagers will be formed to monitor the village's affairs in finance or other matters.

"Since we are living a relatively better life, villagers are more enthusiastic for the election, "said the secretary.

Wangshihe in Junan County in east China's Shandong Province is a small and remote village. It has no more than 80 residents.

In recent years, the quiet village has experienced some changes: roads are paved to doorsteps, cable TVs are equipped in each family and road lights are installed.

Wang Wenhua is a well-off pig raiser in the village. He made 700,000 Yuan (nearly US$90 thousand) last year by selling pigs. "Since we live a good life, more and more villagers are keen to participate in the election." Wang said.

"But people were not very willing to participate in the election in the past when life was hard." said Zhang Chengmei, the female secretary of the village.

"In villagers' eyes, no matter who was the head, life would be the same. But now it is different, people are living a relatively wealthy life, they are more interested in the election because they want to select a person who can really make a difference and lead them to live an all-around well-off life," xplained Zhang.

Rural democracy also needs to be sustainable

Since a supervision team for villagers' committee election was set up in the county of Yishui in Shandong Province by villagers themselves, no violation has ever occurred in the elections.

"The supervision team is spontaneously organized by villagers, members of the team were selected by secret ballots. The team is responsible for all villagers," said head of the organization department of the village.

"Cultivating democratic culture is very important, so is the process," said Wang Jinhua, chief of Rural Affairs Department of Ministry of Civil Affairs.

"By 2006, some 615,000 villagers committees have realized self-governance. But some problems emerged in the process of democratization, such as the procedure for recalling cadres," said Wang.

According to the rules, if one fifth of villagers object village cadres, impeachment procedure should be carried out. But impeachment is quite complicated, sufficient reasons must be given besides a village conference to be held.

China has revised the Organic Law on Villagers Committees in view of some problems in the process of democratic construction in China's rural areas. Many scholars and experts have proposed for the revision. 

"Democratic construction in China's rural areas also needs to be sustainable," said Wang Jianjun from Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Wang also reiterated that related departments should faithfully fulfill their duty of serving the people and taking care of those in need.

(People's Daily March 24, 2006)

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