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'Two Sessions' Show Novel Signs of Grassroots Democracy
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Chinese legislators and political advisors, who also act as farmers, factory workers, village officials and residential committee heads, are bringing their motions and proposals concerning the immediate interests of the public to the ongoing "two sessions" in Beijing.

"The problems we have brought forth are quite simple and common but they are really happening around us," said Chen Xueying, a lawmaker from Huizhou City, south China's Guangdong Province, having promised to take grassroots voices to Beijing.

Chen, who left her rural hometown 21 years ago to do a temporary job in the southern city, is now a workshop director and has been a deputy to the country's top legislature for nearly ten years.

The "two sessions" refer to the once-a-year full conferences of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's parliament, and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top advisory body.

Chen and some other NPC deputies jointly submitted a suggestion demanding the country's "big four" commercial banks to stop collecting inquiry fees (about 30 cents for each service).

"Although the sum is small, it's really a big deal for commoners like farmers and workers," said Chen, adding she will put forward any problem concerning public interests to the top legislature, no matter how small it is.

Like most national lawmakers, Chen has made a thorough research and investigation by visiting neighborhoods and talking to individuals living in his precinct before submitting motions or suggestions to the top legislature. She usually brings possible solutions back after the "two sessions."

NPC deputies at various levels are key channels transmitting grassroots voices, and an effective reflection of local opinions and problems, said Jiang Hongbin, a lawmaker from China's northeastern province of Heilongjiang.

"A sound development of grassroots democracy offers fundamental nutrition to the country's overall democratic situation," he said.

"Residential and village committees produce the China-style grassroots democracy as the problems with immediate concerns to the public can be effectively resolved," Jiang said, adding the two sessions this year put more emphasis on grassroots problems, which have been brought forth by grassroots deputies who keenly understand public concerns.

For instance, Jiang said, if an NPC deputy wants to reveal the real situation of agriculture to the top legislature, she or he visits farming households and collect their opinions.

"It's an entire chain linking people's aspirations, national targets and lawmakers' responsibilities," Jiang said.

In Luonan Village of Foshan City, Guangdong Province, villagers regularly cast their votes to elect members of the village committee or deputies to local people's congress at township or county levels, after listening to candidates' campaign speeches.

"Villagers are enthusiastic about choosing those who can fully represent them," said Guan Runyao, director of the Luonan Village Committee.

The central government is striving to spread such democracy in villages across the country. In some poor villages, people only gather in the backyard of the village head, sit on the stools they bring with them from their homes, and talk or debate for hours about village affairs until they find a solution.

"Each progressive step of grassroots democracy can have some impact on higher levels of political life, and finally reaches the top and influences the country's political landscape," said Liu Laiping, an NPC deputy and a judge from Guangdong.

(Xinhua News Agency March 15, 2007)

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