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Farmers win case against government agency
By Ma Lie (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-09-15 02:27

Farmers from Xiguan Village of Dali County, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, won a lawsuit against the county's civil affairs bureau for its defaulting of duty.

Experts consider the win significant, showing that farmers' legal consciousness is gradually improving and they are paying more attention to their own voting power.

On January 1 of this year, Xiguan Village held a pre-election conference for the new village committee and among the five candidates for director, Zhang won 468 tickets and Ji won 367 tickets, according to Wang Jiancang, one of the farmers.

"However, in the formal election held on January 7, Ji won 573 tickets and Zhang who had won 468 tickets in pre-election only won 432 tickets," Wang said.

Many Xiguan villagers suspected there was bribery involved in the election.

"The day before the formal election someone came to my home and told me that some tickets were needed and 50 yuan (US$6) would be paid to me, if I fill out the ballot with his requirement," said a villager who refused to be named.

A number of villagers were asked to fill out the ballots with special requirement and promised to be paid.

On January 8 and February 2, several dozen villagers led by Wang Jiancang made an oral report of the situation to the Civil Affairs Bureau of Dali County.

However, the bureau did not investigate the matter, Wang said.

So 301 villagers of Xiguan Village considered the bureau neglected its duty and then filed a case with the Intermediate People's Court of Weinan Prefecture against the bureau on April 12, said a judge of the court who participated in hearing the case.

"We asked the court to judge the bureau on doing its duty in accordance with the law concerned and we asked the court to confirm and announce in accordance with the law that the election results of Xiguan Village Committee are invalid," Wang Jiancang said.

On May 14, the Intermediate People's Court of Weinan Prefecture appointed the People's Court of Heyang, a neighbouring county of Dali, to handle the case.

On August 10, Heyang People's Court heard the case publicly and the court believed the Civil Affairs Bureau of Dali County should carry on an investigation after accepting the oral reports of bribery.

The court considered that directors of the Dali County Civil Affairs Bureau and its staff members in charge of the job defaulted their duty and paid no attention to the question of bribery during the village's election.

"According to legal provisions, the bureau should take action on the case," the court said.

On September 2, the Heyang People's Court ruled that the defendant, the Dali County Civil Affairs Bureau should investigate the question of bribery in the election of Xiguan Village within 20 days after the judgment comes into effect.

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