For four years, government leaders in Hengren County, Liaoning Province, have reserved seats for some special people at their meetings.
They were for staff from the legal affairs office to sit in on discussions and offer advice.
"Their advice has all been adopted, ensuring the legitimacy of decisions," local leaders told People's Daily.
Hengren is not the only county that has set up mechanisms to ensure the legitimacy of rules made by the local governments.
Latest figures from the State Council's Legal Affairs Office show that more than 70 percent of municipal and county-level governments have set up various measures to regulate the procedures and boundaries of decisions made by the governments.
Also, more than half of them have set up mechanisms to track and evaluate the implementation of new decisions.
The statistics also show that more local governments are beginning to involve the public and law experts in decision-making.
"Any administrative decision cannot not be passed without the consultancy of experts, and feedback from the public, Cai Xiaoming, mayor of Ganzhou in East China's Jiangxi Province, said.
It is the first time the Legal Affairs Office, the top agent overseeing governmental decisions and rules, has disclosed the status quo of the administrative legitimacy of local governments since the cabinet promoted the concept of "administration according to law" in 1999.
Previously described as "almighty governments", some local governments in China have been chided for making decisions contradictory to the country's laws and violating the legitimate rights of the people.
Applauding the progress made in decision making procedures, Cao Kaotai, director of the office, also asked local governments to set up a rigid correction mechanism to rectify any wrong decision in time.
About 70 percent have set up an accountability system for government decisions.
Experts see these measures as progress in building a modern government under the rule of law.
"Previously, some local government decisions contradicted the laws. Some rules even contradicted each other," Lu Yanbin, a researcher with the law institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said.
"The involvement of the public and law experts, will ensure the legitimate and democratic nature of the decision making process," Lu said.
He said it was a big step forward in the ongoing reform of the government's administrative role.
(China Daily 08/08/2007 page3)