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Incompetent officials face tougher scrutiny
By Wang Zhenghua (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-05-11 22:48

Incompetent and ineffective officials in Binhai, a county in East China's Jiangsu Province, can be removed from their posts at any time as long as a dozen of people submit a petition and approval is granted by authorities.

According to a democratic system established by Binhai County last month, ordinary people, members of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and grassroots officials are entitled to submit petitions to force unqualified officials to hand over their power.

Before, unfit officials could stay in their positions through their terms of office if they had made no serious mistakes or had made no decisions that led to negative political impacts or huge economic losses.

The new system states that 10 or more applicants -- ranging from ordinary people to deputies at the county- or village-level people's congress -- have the right to hand in a petition to authorities to level allegations against incapable officials.

Upon receiving the petitions, higher-level authorities will dispatch a team to investigate the charges before they determine whether to keep or remove officials from their posts.

If the charges have merit, a vote will then be taken on the fate of the unworthy official. It is required that the procedure be completed within three months.

At the moment in China, people are voicing their strong support for the new "take-the-blame-and-resign" system among officials in China.

A recent example is that of Chen Yingquan, a former petroleum chief in Southwest China's Sichuan Province. He was removed from his post in connection with a gas blowout that caused 233 deaths in Chongqing Municipality late last year.

But Binhai law enforcement officials hold that a democratic mechanism is still needed in addition to that blamed-and-resign system.

Shen Naifeng, a top official of the county's organization department who took part in drafting the new regulation, told China Daily Tuesday that the democratic system arms ordinary people with an effective weapon to supervise officials' work from outside of government.

"Unlike the `take-the-blame-and-resign' system, which allows incompetent officials to step down by themselves when tragedies occur and big losses are generated, our method will strangle all accidents in cradle," he said.

"Unfit or mediocre officials can theoretically be removed from their posts before they may make bad decisions," Shen added.

Shen said he himself, as a civil servant, feels great pressure since the new regulation was put into place.

"I have to think twice before I utter a word or do a thing, because I know there are hidden eyes that oversee my performance," he said.

Meanwhile the official admitted that at present not everyone working in the government are totally familiar with the new system and they have not sacked any officials nor received a single petition from complainers.

But he promised his division will further promote the method in various levels of departments.

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