Commentary: Grassroots democracy grows
( 2003-08-09 08:50) (China Daily)
To Chen Huibin at Guangdong and Yuan Zhiliang at Hunan, May 25 of this year was a very bad day.
As deputies to local people's congresses, they were asked to vacate their posts by voters in their election districts respectively.
Though thousands of miles apart from one another, 61 voters in Zhuzhou's Shifeng District of Central China's Hunan Province, and 33 others in Shenzhen's Nanshan District of Southeast China's Guangdong Province submitted letters on May 25 to local standing committees of the people's congress asking for the recall of Yuan and Chen separately according to legal procedures.
Reasons for the recall of the two may differ in many ways, but the voters have at least one thing in common: They all held that the two deputies have failed to reflect the will and interests of the people in their electoral districts.
Given the basic political mission for a deputy of people's congress is to safeguard the interests of the people he or she is representing, if this charge is to be proven true for Yuan and Chen, dismissal from their current positions will be inevitable.
Although ongoing investigations make it too early to take sides with the belligerent parties in either event, the paralleled events are very rare in Chinese political life. They also bear witness to measured progress in enhanced democratic awareness at the grassroots level.
When the majority of the voters seldom care whether the representatives could really exercise state power for them, it is heartening to see that some voters demonstrated a strong political will to actively supervise over the actions of the deputies they elected.
Since the system of the people's congress constitutes the fundamental political structure in China and is therefore a major platform for socialist democracy, such new development in China's political life is significant for the building of a socialist democracy.
In recent years, national efforts to enhance the function of people's congresses at different levels have begun to bear fruit. The days when people's congress at different levels was no more than a rubber stamp have gone. It is no longer the case that proposals made by the government, ranging from personnel arrangements to formal reports, are approved unanimously as in the old days. Instead, they are constantly turned down by the local people's congress.
A consensus has been reached in Chinese society that representatives of people's congresses at all levels should be more earnest and active in observing their duties.
Nevertheless, the majority of the voters still do not actively supervise the actions of the deputies they elected. Worse, the right to vote is more often than not held lightly by many voters.
Hence, the rampancy of the following tendency becomes unavoidable in some places: On the one hand, the will of the people could not be fully reflected in the government's decision making. On the other hand, some deputies of people's congresses only account for their authorities and tend to forget their sacred responsibility of exercising legal power for the people who elected them.
Apparently, when ordinary people could not have a say in their city or village's political affairs through their deputies, any effort to promote the building of democracy will fall short.
It is with this in mind that the two events on the recall of the people's congress deputies is worth noting and deserves encouragement. They sound an alarm for elected deputies that they will risk losing their sacred seats if they do not live up to the wishes of the people.
Thanks to the country's astounding achievements made in the economic and social fronts these years, ordinary people can now focus more on big issues that do not pertain to their personal interests. With reforms on State-owned enterprises, the medical and social security systems which directly concern the interests of ordinary people have been put into place one after another. More and more people are now shifting their attention from reform topics to issues like government building, democracy promotion and individual rights protection.
And the government has played an important role in nurturing such an environment by relentlessly advocating the strengthening of the legal system and democracy. Therefore, we have reason to hope that more and more people will attach greater attention to their right to vote and safeguard their lawful right to supervise the actions of their representatives.
Needless to say, to help voters turn their will into action, efforts still need to be made to remove ambiguous legal provisions and fill in explicit and feasible ones so as to pave the way for voters to exercise their power smoothly.
At present, questions like under what conditions people's congress deputies be dismissed and how to start the recall process remain unanswered in concerned laws.
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