02/24/2006, 00.00
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More democracy in China's rural areas to tackle social protests

This was proposed by the secretary of the Guandong communist party, who said it was necessary to review current law and to give people direct power.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Scmp) – More autonomy should be given to residents of Yunfu in the Guandong mountains to avoid the outbreak of rural protests, said Zheng Liping, secretary of the provincial Communist Party.

Addressing a meeting with members of the Yunfu government during the People's Congress of Guandong, Zheng, said: "Villagers should have full autonomy within the confines of the law and constitution." He said village organisation law provided villagers with the means to resolve problems. According to the law, it takes 10% of eligible villagers to request a meeting and the village committee also has the right to call a meeting if problems crop up. It takes 20% of villagers to hold a meeting to proceed with their headman's removal, but while villagers can ask the headman to hold a meeting, he may decline to do so.

"If the village headman refuses, the normal channel is blocked and people may resort to illegal ways," continued Zheng, like occupying public offices or violence. Villagers could send petitions to the authorities but anyhow "problems cannot be resolved by themselves". So a system of solving problems between the people and village committees needs to be worked out on site; it would be even useful to have a "separate and independent" higher supervisory authority.

It is the first time that a high-ranking official of the Communist Party of Guangdong has tackled the problem of rural democracy directly. Experts recalled recent events in Taishi, where residents sought, in vain, to depose the mayor accused of corruption. Social protests involving more than 20,000 people erupted and the police remained in the village for months to control the situation. In the first eight months of 2005, some 150,000 charges leveled against public officials in Guangdong. But the problem exists on a nationwide scale.

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