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Villagers Exercise Full Right to Vote

Rural residents in Guangzhou are enjoying their right to vote and are busy electing village committees for the first time, according to officials from the Supervision Office for Direct Election of Villagers' Committees in Guangzhou Thursday.

This is the first time that the 2.3 million rural residents in 1,161 villages in suburban Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, participate in a direct election for the villagers' committees.

Three years ago, 974 villages voted for members of their committees, said Zheng Jiekang, an official from the supervision office.

The villagers' committee refers to an autonomous organization in a village which encourages villagers to enjoy self-administration and self-education.

Members of the committees are elected for a term of three years.

Direct election at this level in Guangzhou, which began in 1999 when China's Organic Law of Villagers' Committees was promulgated, means that all villagers directly nominate people as candidates to become committee members according to the law. However, before 1999 indirect elections took place in which village delegates voted for members of the committees.

According to the organic law, the results of the vote are publicized immediately after villages vote for candidates.

After the first round, all but the two top-ranking candidates are eliminated.

Residents then choose between the remaining two to pick the head of the committee.

Direct elections in villages in Guangzhou, which will last about three months from April to June, are welcomed by villagers.

"We are very happy to vote for the candidates directly and are satisfied with the results of the election," said Fu Junjiang, a villager in his 60s in Wulan Village which finished its election on April 16.

"The election really embodies our wishes," the old man said.

"For example, most people around me are thankful to the former kind and capable head of the committee and so he was elected as head again this time," he said.

Villagers spoke highly of the election speeches of the candidates, which is a new initiative in the direct election stipulated by the supervision office of the Municipal Committee this year.

"We are happy to see candidates making practical promises before us and are encouraged by their plans for developing our village," said Fu Jiantang, another villager in Wulan Village.

Xiao Jisong, the newly elected head of the committee in the village, said he was impressed by people's trust and power of supervision while delivering election speeches.

"This is the first time for me to stand before all villagers reviewing my work in the past three years and future administrative plan," Xiao said.

Up to now, 191 villages in Guangzhou, 16.5 percent of the total, have finished their direct elections for village committees and the other 970 villages will finish their elections before the end of June.

(China Daily May 10, 2002)

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