Rural elections are threatened by vote buying and selling, despotic leaders and the triads. But the Communist Party still refuses to boost democracy.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) Corruption amongst rural politicians is so great that the government's "new socialist countryside" campaign to improve farmers' conditions might be jeopardised.
Several delegates at the National People's Congress (NPC) today made these allegations. They warn that the situation explains the widespread malaise and unrest in the nation's vast countryside.
"In some villages, candidates spend . . . several hundred thousand yuan campaigning for the post of village chief, the monthly pay for which is at most several hundred yuan," Liu Xiguang, a delegate from Hebei province, was quoted in Xinhua as saying.
"It's apparent that what the candidates are actually seeking is the power to control the village's land and mineral resources, which they can trade for cash and other personal benefits," Mr Liu said, adding that politicians who rose to power through bribing voters were mostly "dictatorial and corrupt".
Other delegates expressed concern that a whole new field of corruption had opened up following central government pledges to spend more money on backward rural areas.
At the PNC's inaugural session, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao pledged 339.7 billion yuan (about 34 billion, US$ 42 billion) in spending on rural school and hospitals.
"Some NPC deputies are worried that the huge funds might be misused or intercepted by officials at various levels before reaching the farmers," Xinhua said.
Another concern voiced in the Great Hall of the People was that of a possible alliance between local politicians and triads from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.
Zhu Entao, a former assistant minister of public security, said the infiltration by organised criminal syndicates was a rising trend with some officials operating undercover for overseas criminal groups.
For now they are "just [a few] individuals, but some have red hats [i.e. official titles]. [But] If they infiltrate political circles, the risks are pretty high," he said.
Under the circumstances, various delegates have called for greater democracy in the countryside and the cities so that voting can truly determine who is in or out of office. However, on this issue the government is not budging on the issue.
"The ultimate goal of political reform is to make the country strong, the society stable and the people happy," said Li Junru, a vice-chairman of Party school. "Political reform must not bring chaos."