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Consulting grassroots citizens now a common practice among top Chinese leaders


Special Report: NPC, CPPCC Annual Sessions 2008

BEIJING, March 4 (Xinhua) -- Yang Yingchuan is looking forward to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's government work report on Wednesday at the parliament annual session in hope his proposal to improve the plight of rural teachers is included.

"I told the premier about such problems as low payments for rural teachers and he responded to them," said Yang, referring to a symposium presided over by Wen in late January in Zhongnanhai, a compound where top Chinese leaders live and work in downtown Beijing.

The middle school teacher from the mountainous Eryuan County in southwestern Yunnan Province, and 12 other grassroots citizens from different walks of life from around the country, were invited to Zhongnanhai. They were there to express their opinion on the draft work report that will be delivered at the annual session of the 11th National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, which opens on Wednesday.

It is the second time Wen has organized a symposium specially for grassroots deputies to solicit their opinion and proposals on government work. Prior to the annual session last year, the premier also invited 12 ordinary citizen deputies to Zhongnanhai and had a similar symposium.

"I have been teaching in the poverty stricken mountainous area for 14 years. I have deeply felt that the instability of rural education staff is due to low income and a poor living and working environment," the 35-year-old said.

He said he also told the premier it was urgent to improve the quality of rural teachers, whose education levels were relatively low, as farmers wanted their children to receive quality education.

"I am looking forward to seeing new content in the reform of rural education system in this year's government work report," Yang said.

For many years, the State Council, China's Cabinet, has organized symposiums to solicit opinions and suggestions of people in various fields on the draft prior to the NPC annual session to which the report will be delivered.

But most of the invited were experts and scholars or other elites. The voice of grassroots citizens from across the country was not much heard.

"Now, to listen to the opinions of grassroots people has become a common practice, or one of the marked procedures for the State Council in key decision making," said Wu Zhongmin, a professor with the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

Zhang Zhixue, a law enforcement official of the Luquan City Environmental Protection Bureau, Hebei Province, also attended the Jan. 23 symposium.

He talked about pollution treatment problems in some areas. For example, some environmental protection officials had turned a blind eye to pollution in their actual work.

"I suggested the awareness of administration according to the law must be raised among local leading officials if we really want to push forward the move of saving energy and bringing down pollution emission," he said.

The grassroots official hoped Wen's report would include his suggestion and reveal more powerful means to treat pollution this year.

Wen's report last March already included proposals from a meeting attended by a dozen grassroots representatives prior to last year's NPC session.

Fan Shusheng, a Beijing's migrant worker from the central Henan Province, said Wen's pledge to extend social security coverage to migrant workers in his report last year coincided with what he had proposed at the meeting.

Analysts say such a symposium widens the consultation channels for the government report and makes it closer to people's livelihood, more credible and scientific.

"That the premier listens to the advice of grassroots deputies shows the governance concept of putting the people first," academic Wu said.

"The practice also sets an example for government officials at all levels and reminds them the government is only an institution to serve the public."

The number of grassroots deputies to the top legislature is also increasing.

According to the roll call of the 11th NPC, the number of workers-turned-NPC deputies doubled from the previous term, while the number of farmer deputies increased by more than 70 percent.

Among them, three rural migrant workers now working in cities have been elected NPC deputies. This makes them the first batch of "spokespersons" in the top legislature for about 200 million migrant laborers.

Source: Xinhua

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