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‘Iron Hammer:’ Changing Role of China's Lawmakers

Xinhua, 1 March 2002

SHENYANG, March 1 (Xinhua) -- Although not an incumbent government official, Feng Youwei from Shenyang, northeast China's Liaoning Province spends every Saturday listening to people's problems and their opinions on government activity.

Feng, a 62-year old metal expert, who has already spent 16 years as a deputy to the people's congress at district, city and provincial levels, said that being a people's congress deputy is a more practical job now than the rubber stamp role of deputies 20 years ago.

Many deputies to the people's congress deal with their membership as a sideline except some members of the standing committee of people's congress, who fulfill legislative work after the people's congress session closes.

Membership of the people's congress used to be considered a reward for outstanding performers in various fields. The supervision by the people's congress of the work of the government was once badly neglected in China.

However, as China's political democracy had begun to take a more definite shape during the past two decades, deputies to the people's congress such as Feng are playing an increasingly active role in channeling grassroots problems to relevant government administrations and supervising the settlement of these problems.

In 1992, a villager named Zhao Dongsheng was beaten to death during a police interrogation in central China's Henan province and the local government tried to cover up the truth. Since 1994, nearly 100 angry lawyers at both local and national levels have appealed for justice to be done in Zhao's case.

Thanks to their unremitting efforts and to the concern of honest officials, the case was finally settled with one policemen being sentenced to death and another to life imprisonment.

I have never known lawyers to exert such high pressure. It was their persistence that forced me to seriously investigate the case, said the deputy chief procurator Jiang, Henan Provincial People's Procuratorate.

For some time, Kan Yuqin, a Shenyang farmer, has been frequently visiting deputies of the local People's Congress to discuss issues concerning land use in her village.

I firmly believe deputies to the People's Congress will help solve our problems. says Kan.

In 1992 the National People's Congress (NPC), China's highest legislative organ, promulgated a law which applied to deputies to the People's Congress at all levels, specifying duties to be carried out by the people's congress deputies as well as making safeguards for their lawful rights.

Yin Liangpei, a law professor and member of the standing committee of Shenyang City People's Congress, said that Chinese legislative bodies are becoming more authoritative as marked progress has been made in establishing a democratic and law- abiding Chinese society over the past ten years.

The Shenyang City People's Congress vetoed the work report presented by the Shenyang City Intermediate People's Court in 2001, the first time ever in the history of China's people's congress system. The event was considered as a milestone in the development of democracy in China.

Wang Youqi and Feng Youwei, two deputies of Shenyang City People's Congress known for their courage in vetoing decisions during congress sessions, said that reluctance to use the veto right when confronted with unreasonable decisions is against the will of the electors.

It has become increasingly common for lawyers to interrupt work sessions of people's congress at all levels.

At present, an increasing number of deputies to people's congress come to realize that their obligation demands their heartfelt devotion to serve the people who elect them.

Li Ping, a deputy for ten years to Faku County People's Congress, Liaoning Province, frequently tours villages around him to listen to farmers' problems and ideas. He also discusses issues that farmers mostly concerned twice a month with other deputies.

Li is very proud of her success in lobbying local government department to build a 8,000-meter long road connecting her village with the downtown area of Faku County.

She said things are getting better all the time.

The Standing Committee of Shenyang City People's Congress has launched a regulation, requiring deputies to regularly report what they have done to the electorate. Experts said that the move marks a concrete progress in making deputies to people's congress more professional.

Zhang Hongyun, a member of the standing committee of Shenyang City People's Congress, said that a way to supervise the work of deputies is urgently needed.

China's system of people's congress has undergone continuous development since its establishment in 1954. Experts said that the system will be more complete and better serve the Chinese society in ten years.

It has become a must for the Chinese society, especially government officials at all levels, to better adjust to an increasingly democratic and lawful environment, said Yin Liangpei. Enditem