China's huge army of migrant workers may soon be guaranteed seats in the nation's top legislature, where they will be able to voice their concerns and complaints, if proposals for representation quotas are passed.
At the ongoing annual National People's Congress session, a draft resolution on the election of deputies was submitted to lawmakers for deliberation on Thursday, stipulating provinces and municipalities should set NPC deputy quotas for large populations of rural migrant workers.
"It is a remarkable event in the development of China's political democracy," said Han Dayuan, a law professor at the People's University in Beijing.
China has about 150 million migrant workers in cities, but they have no representation in the country's top legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC).
With their comparatively low status in cities, migrant workers face many problems such as delayed payments and their children's schooling.
Dai Quanming, a migrant-worker deputy in east China's Zhejiang Province, submitted two bills on the compulsory education of the children of migrant workers and the requirement of equal pay for equal work to the annual session of the Ningbo City People's Congress.
"I will try to voice the demands and wishes of migrant workers, " said 46-year-old Dai, from central China's Henan Province, who has been working in Ningbo as a migrant laborer for 15 years and was elected a deputy of the migrant workers in Ningbo's city legislature early this year.
The election of migrant workers as local lawmakers began in 2002 in Zhejiang Province, when Zhu Linfei was the first migrant worker to be elected as a deputy in Yiwu City People's Congress.
Zhu said she knew the needs of migrant workers and had been working hard to help solve their problems.
Southern cities like Shenzhen and Dongguan, Guangdong Province, also have lawmakers representing their large numbers of migrant workers.
The province has already put the election of migrant workers as NPC deputies on the government agenda, according to government sources.
"The awareness of political rights has been promoted among migrant workers," said Sun Heng, founder of an arts group for young migrant workers in Beijing.
"We may not have the oratory or writing skills to make our words sound impressive, but our own deputies are the most genuine representative for us," Sun said.