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Zhou Hanhua :Legislators discuss equal representation for rural, urban Chinese
The first plenary session of the 11th meeting of the Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC) is held in Beijing, capital of China, on Oct. 27, 2009. (Xinhua/Li Xueren)

BEIJING, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- China's top legislature Tuesday discussed granting equal representation in people's congresses to rural and urban people, according to a draft law amendment.

A draft amendment to the Electoral Law, tabled at the 11th meeting of the Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC), for the first time aims to balance elections of lawmakers.

It requires "both rural and urban areas adopt the same ratio of deputies to the represented population in elections of people's congress deputies."

The law did not specify the exact population that a lawmaker would represent.

The top legislature would decide the specific ratio after passing the amendment, said Li Shishi, director of the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the NPC Standing Committee, while briefing lawmakers at the legislature's opening session.

It would take two or three readings before a law was passed by China's top legislature.

Li suggested the draft amendment to the Electoral Law be submitted to a bimonthly session in December and a NPC plenary session in March next year for a second and third reading.

The Electoral Law was enacted in 1953 and completely revised in1979. It then underwent four minor amendments.

The law provides legal guarantees for elections of deputies to people's congresses, the country's fundamental political system.

Li said after the last amendment in 1995, the law stipulated that each rural deputy represented a population four times that of an urban deputy.

Every 960,000 rural residents and every 240,000 urbanites were represented by one NPC deputy respectively, according to the law.

Critics said this could be interpreted as "farmers only enjoying a quarter of the suffrage of their urban counterparts."

During previous amendments in the 1980s, the difference was eight times greater.

But Li said such a provision was "in accordance with the country's political system and social conditions of that time" and was "completely necessary" as the rural population was much more than that of cities and an equal ratio of rural and urban representation would have meant an excessive number of rural deputies.

The rural population made up almost 90 percent of China's total when the New China was founded in 1949. With the development of urbanization, the ratio of urban and rural residents was about 45 to 53 last year.

Li said that with rapid urbanization and rural economic development, the time was right for equal representation, which was conducive to "mobilizing people's enthusiasm and creativity" and the development of democracy.

He said the amendment ensured equal representation among regions and ethnic groups.

The amendment echoed Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee General Secretary Hu Jintao, who proposed in a report to the 17th CPC National Congress in October 2007 that rural and urban areas should have equal rights in election of lawmakers, as "the people are masters of the country."

Zhou Hanhua, research fellow with the Law Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the draft amendment was in line with social change, and "from the legal perspective it shows that all rights are equal under the law."

The draft amendment also added stipulations such as "organizing more face-to-face contact between candidates and electors" and "providing basic introductions of candidates."

The number of deputies to the NPC is limited within 3,000, and the distribution of the NPC deputies is decided by the NPC Standing Committee, or the top legislature, according to the law.

It says a name list of election candidates to a people's congress must be made public 20 days before the election, and officially announced five days before the election.

Electors may vote for or against or abstain from voting, or vote for people other than the candidates.

Candidates who stand for election as deputies to a people's congress can be deemed elected "if they receive more than half of the votes," it says.

http://www.chinataiwan.org/sy/yw/200910/t20091028_1123208.htm