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Advisory body answers the call
By Jiang Zhuqing and Hu Qihua (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-09-27 11:01

Everywhere in China, people are muttering about life changes and political reforms - in the street, shops, even in taxis. But there is one group of people who make louder remarks, suggestions and even criticisms with the intention of making things happen. They are outspoken, and they are received with applause.

The second plenary session of the 10th CPPCC starts in Beijing on March 3. Over the last 55 years, the top political advisory body has contributed significantly to China's development in many aspects. [newsphoto]

They are the members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a patriotic united front organization of the Chinese people and China's top political advisory body.

They listen to people's complaints, look for problems in people's lives and the country's development, carry out investigations into them and raise suggestions while trying to persuade the authorities to solve the problems.

Addressing the closing session of the Seventh Meeting of the Standing Committee of the 10th CPPCC National Committee, which concluded in Beijing on Saturday, Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee of the CPPCC, said the Conference and its branches across the country would work with non-Communist parties, institutions and people from all ethnic groups to help build China into a better, more modern society.

Making history

The CPPCC was once known as the new political consultative conference to distinguish it from one convened in 1946, when the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Kuomintang met to negotiate in Chongqing following the victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan (1937-45).

The consultation has been conducted by the CPPCC since it was founded in 1949.

The CPPCC is several months older than the People's Republic of China, and for a while served as the country's de facto top legislature. In 1954 this function was transferred to the National People's Congress.

The CPPCC's First Plenum was held in Beijing on September 21-30, 1949. It was designed to draw up the Common Programme, which functioned as a provisional constitution until the first Constitution came into effect in 1954.

During the convention, it elected a Central People's Government Council, with Mao Zedong as chairman, and appointed Zhou Enlai premier of the Government Administration Council.

Either as the country's once de facto top legislature in its infancy or as its top political advisory body, the CPPCC has always been a political institution to be reckoned with in this country.

In August 1950, one Beijinger wrote to Chairman Mao to suggest speeding up production to improve a then dire financial situation and to consolidate the new political power.

The CPPCC then worked with the government to adopt a series of industrial, commercial, financial and taxation policies to stabilize the situation.

After the National People's Congress was convened in 1954, the CPPCC shifted its function as China's patriotic united front organization because of its broad representation.

Promoting democracy

At the moment, the CPPCC consists of representatives of the CPC and non-Communist parties, people without party affiliation, representatives of people's organizations and ethnic minorities, and representatives of all other social strata. It also has representation from compatriots of the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions and Taiwan and returned overseas Chinese.

It has never stopped playing a vital role in the country's political, economic, cultural and social life and in international affairs.

As an important instrument of socialist democracy in China's political life, its major tasks are political consultation, supervision of democracy, and participation in and discussion of political affairs.

Although it is under the leadership of the CPC, the CPPCC exercises its legally independent democratic supervision over the CPC and the government by making suggestions and criticisms.

For example, the CPPCC National Committee organized four meetings to discuss the amendments of the Constitution in 1982.

CPPCC members raised their suggestions and opinions on the content and literal expressions. Some of their suggestions were later adopted in the revised Constitution.

One of the latest revisions of the Constitution was carried out in March this year. Some CPPCC members convened in August 2003, and suggested new strata that had emerged in the opening-up and reform era be included in the united front.

The CPPCC has neither been a "rubber stamp" like some people have accused it of, nor a comfortable political refuge for retired senior officials. It has become more assertive in assuming the historical and political responsibilities it inherited at birth.

CPPCC National Committee members, representing themselves or the organizations they belong to, put forward proposals to a plenary session or the Standing Committee of the CPPCC National Committee. The proposals will afterwards be sorted by the Proposal Committee and transferred to departments concerned for a solution.

"Being CPPCC National Committee members, it is our responsibility to raise proposals and suggestions with high quality concerning State affairs," said CPPCC member Zheng Xiaoyan.

Changing life

The CPPCC's importance as a top political adviser has been increasing in recent years, evidenced by the growing number of motions and on-the-spot inspections its members have put forward and participated in, and the frequency of those concerns being taken or addressed by the Party or relevant government bodies.

Economist Li Jingwen remembered clearly the inflation that occurred in the 1980s. Being a CPPCC member, Li suggested the government adopted different measures, such as to open the stock market, encourage consumption and expand the scale of commodity supply, aiming to ease risks.

Job creation, in line with the perfection of a minimum living safety network, is the fundamental way to resolve severe urban poverty, which has become an unavoidable problem during China's social and economic development, suggested CPPCC member Ye Weizhen.

The government should put job creation and re-employment at the top of the nation's macro-control strategy agenda, said Ye, adding that measures are needed to spur the development of township and private enterprises.

In 2003, the Standing Committee of the CPPCC had organized more than 20 inspection tours, in which more than 500 CPPCC members carried out inspections across the country on major problems related to economic reform, rural development and social stability.

In the past two months, the national committee of the CPPCC has sent 11 inspection teams around the country and drafted a series of in-depth reports on agriculture infrastructures, reform of State-owned enterprises, development of private economy, sea pollution and supply of personnel.

"There is more room for us to function," said CPPCC member Liu Xinle.

As well as the 2,238 members of the 10th CPPCC National Committee, there are more than 500,000 members in over 3,000 local committees of the CPPCC, who play a role as a democratic channel to link the leadership with ordinary people, enabling ordinary citizens to benefit in their daily lives.

In Lianyungang, a city of Jiangsu Province, more than 1,000 children of migrant workers benefit from CPPCC members' proposals.

At the First Session of the 10th Lianyungang Municipal Committee of the CPPCC, the local committee of the China Farmers and Workers' Democratic Party raised a proposal suggesting migrant workers' children pay the same education fees. The Lianyungang Bureau of Education thereafter decided to cancel additional fees applied to migrant children, which totalled 2.23 million yuan (US$269,300).

Supervising leadership

In the year since the first session of the 10th National Committee of the CPPCC, relevant departments under the State Council have handled 10,911 proposals from CPPCC members. CPPCC proposals are believed to have helped make government decisions more scientific and democratic and reduce government errors.

Anti-corruption has topped the list of CPPCC members' hot topics in recent years.

CPPCC member and Vice-Procurator General Zhao Dengju said that the unremitting struggle against corruption was important to guarantee the honest and effective administration of government.

CPPCC member Cao Keming said improving supervision was needed for judicial and procuratorial organs to prevent corruption.

A number of proposals suggested that leading officials should be audited on financial duties during their tenure and senior officials should report their intentions to related departments before they leave for foreign countries. The proposals received positive response from the supervision authorities.

This year, the National Audit Office, led by Auditor-General Li Jinhua, launched a so-called "Audit Storm" by criticizing some government institutions on their chaotic financial status, causing a big stir in the country.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China and the Ministry of Supervision ordered a formal start of a pilot programme in early July to prevent corrupt officials fleeing the country.

The programme requires director-general-level officials in central government departments, county-level officials in local governments, SOEs managers at the same level and their family members to report their intentions to related departments and undergo investigations before they leave China.

The move is based on a proposal raised by the Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League at the Second Session of the 10th National Committee of the CPPCC in March.

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