Migrant workers poised to have their own say in NPC

Updated: 2007-03-15 20:29

BEIJING -- China's huge army of migrant workers may soon have seats in the nation's top legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC).

At the ongoing annual NPC session, a draft resolution on the election of NPC deputies has been submitted to lawmakers for deliberation. It stipulates that 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 of Beijing-based Renmin University of China.

China has about 150 million migrant workers in cities, but they have no representation in the NPC.

With their comparatively low status in cities, migrant workers face many problems, such as delayed payments and their children's schooling in cities.

Dai Quanming, a migrant-worker, has been elected deputy to the People's Congress of Ningbo City, east China's Zhejiang Province. Dai submitted two motions on the compulsory education of the children of migrant workers and equal pay for equal work to the annual session of the Ningbo City People's Congress.

"I will 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.

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.

With the number of migrant workers growing fast in east China's coastal cities, local authorities have begun to attach importance to the protection of their legal rights.

Southern cities, including Shenzhen and Dongguan in Guangdong Province, now also have lawmakers representing their large numbers of migrant workers.

Guangdong has put the election of migrant workers as NPC deputies on the government agenda, according to an official of the provincial government.

"But we need to do the work prudently because the term for an NPC deputy is five years while migrant workers move from place to place," said the official.

"The awareness of political rights has risen among migrant workers," said Sun Heng, founder of an arts group for young migrant workers in Beijing.

Sun, who has long been helping migrant workers protect their rights, said the elite of migrant workers today have received basic education, know laws and are outspoken.

"We may not have oratory or writing skills to make our words sound impressive, but our own deputies are the most genuine representatives for us," Sun said.

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