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Grassroots deputies more prominent in legislatures
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Zheng Xiaoqiong and five other migrant workers were present on Thursday when Guangdong Province Governor Huang Huahua delivered the government work report to the local legislature for the first time in their lives.

While plans and blueprints listed in the report are important, the 27-year-old deputy to the Guangdong Provincial People's Congress is more concerned with the welfare of migrant workers who still sometimes suffer from prejudice and discrimination.

"When I was elected, what came into my mind first is that can I help my colleagues and friends to get their unpaid wages sooner?" Zheng said.

It was the first time for the booming southern province to have lawmakers from its more than 30 million migrant workforce. Zheng, who works as a saleswoman at a factory in Dongguan and enjoys writing poems, believed their voices and requests would be more heard with direct participation in legislature.

Yang Chengyong, an official with the Standing Committee of the Guangdong Provincial People's Congress, said "the six deputies are all farmers-turned workers who came to Guangdong from other provinces. Only workers are elected and the bosses and management staff have been excluded."

In total, 790 deputies are meeting for the first session of the 11th Guangdong Provincial People's Congress starting Thursday and running until Jan. 25.

Chinese provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities are currently in their legislative season, featuring more grassroots lawmakers and fewer cadres this year.

Among the 770 newly-selected deputies to the People's Congress of Beijing Municipality, only 62, or eight percent, were from government departments, compared with 100 five years ago.

Among Shanghai's 860 deputies, the number of officials of, or higher than, prefecture level were 328, 49 less than that of five years ago.

"To cut the number of officials in legislatures provides bigger access for grassroots deputies, a move that makes legislators more representative of the general public," said Han Dayuan, a Renmin University law professor.

Traditionally, officials and businessmen have constituted a big part in Chinese legislatures. This has often come under fire by critics.

Observers said that migrant workers numbering more than 200 million nationwide have become a major workforce in the country. Despite this, they had not a single representative in the National People's Congress (NPC), the highest institution through which the public exercise their state power.

The NPC standing committee also noticed that the number of NPC deputies elected from farmers and industrial workers had been dropping in recent years. It stipulated in a document last year that migrants should have their own representatives seated in the national parliament.

China vowed to deepen political restructuring at the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October that charted the nation's road map for future years.

President Hu Jintao said at the congress that "People's democracy is the lifeblood of socialism ... The essence and core of socialist democracy are that the people are masters of the country".

Yan Shuhan, a researcher with the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, said the increased number of grassroots deputies in legislatures showed the political restructuring process was on track.

In the Guangdong Provincial People's Congress, the number of deputies from youth, women, non-communist parties and the industry and commerce federation had also increased, according to Yang Chengyong.

One of the six migrant-worker deputies to the Guangdong legislature will be elected as the NPC deputy and attend the NPC annual session in March. He or she could be China's first migrant worker deputy to the NPC, Yang added.

(Xinhua News Agency January 18, 2008)

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