Residents read magazines at the library at Gubei Civic Center at Hongqiao Neighborhood, Changning District, Shanghai on July 24, 2021 (XINHUA)
Local Legislative Outreach Office in Hongqiao Neighborhood, Shanghai
In November 2019, President Xi Jinping visited a local legislative outreach office of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee’s Legislative Affairs Commission in Hongqiao neighborhood in Shanghai. During a conversation with Chinese and foreign residents attending a consultation meeting on a draft law, President Xi said, “We are following a path of socialist political development with Chinese characteristics, and our people’s democracy is a whole-process democracy.” President Xi reiterated this concept in his speech at the ceremony marking the centenary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in July 2021 emphasizing the need to “develop whole-process people’s democracy.”
A picture of Gubei Civic Center, where the local legislative outreach office of the Legislative Affairs
Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Hongqiao neighborhood in Shanghai locates, shot on November 27, 2020 (XINHUA)
Local legislative outreach offices directly solicit the public’s opinions and ideas, which is a tangible manifestation of China’s attempts to create new mechanisms of democracy in China and to expand current mechanisms. To meet the requirements set out in the Resolution of the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee established four local legislative outreach offices in 2015, including one in Hongqiao neighborhood of Shanghai’s Changning District.
In 2020, the Legislative Affairs Commission established a further six local legislative outreach offices, respectively in Kunshan City of Jiangsu Province, in Zhengding Town of Hebei Province, and at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, bringing the total number to 10. As of June 2021, these legislative outreach offices had provided nearly 6,600 suggestions relating to 109 draft laws and legislative work plans, many of which have been used following careful analysis and research.
Xia Yunlong, 81-year-old information official at the local legislative outreach office, introduces a community magazine on July 24, 2021 (XINHUA)
In 2020, the outreach office in Hongqiao neighborhood in Shanghai held more than 180 consultation meetings regarding 16 draft laws, which were attended by more than 3,000 people. In 2015, the Hongqiao outreach office received a proposal regarding the draft Anti-Domestic Violence Law. The proposal was for community-level organizations to be included on the list of entities that can apply for personal safety protection orders, and it was chosen for incorporation into the law.
Courtyard Meeting Hall in a Hutong Community in Beijing
On February 1, 2019, when President Xi Jinping walked into a meeting hall in central Beijing’s Qianmen neighborhood, community workers and local resident representatives were discussing the renovation of courtyard houses in the hutongs, Beijing’s traditional alleyways.
An old couple walks in the Caochangsitiao Hutong, downtown
Beijing on April 3, 2019 (XINHUA)
Xi joined the discussion, hailing the courtyard meetings as a mechanism that enables community members to discuss and decide their own affairs.
This kind of “courtyard meeting hall” in Beijing has several similar models in other parts of the country, including the “village chat booth” in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province, where villagers could discuss with village officials about their concerns. Mechanisms such as these are effective at empowering ordinary people and serving as a pillar of people’s democracy in China.
Zhu Maojin (first left) prepared dumplings with his family in a household of Caochangsitiao Hutong, downtown
Beijing on January 14, 2020 (XINHUA)
“When the residents enjoy the right to discuss and decide their affairs, they will have a stronger sense of belonging and being masters, and community governance and service will be more accurate and meticulous,” Xi noted after talking with the hutong residents.
The essence of people’s democracy is that people have the opportunity to discuss the matters that affect them and that common ground can be reached based on the wishes and needs of the entire society, Xi said.
Voting System on Projects Concerning People’s Livelihood in Hexi District, Tianjin
The Standing Committee of the People’s Congress of Hexi District, Tianjin organizes deputies to inspect the
updates of the lamp upgrading project on August 22, 2019 (Courtesy Photo)
In 2019 the government of Hexi District in Tianjin chose to implement a project to change broken street lights and install new ones. The decision to implement the project was made through a new voting system established in 2018 by the Standing Committee of the Hexi District People’s Congress as a pilot project to select new projects and solicit community feedback.
Su Zhi, Director of the Standing Committee of the Hexi District Municipal People’s Congress said the voting system includes soliciting suggestions through multiple channels, formulating an annual list of projects concerning people’s daily life, and annual voting by deputies in the district’s People’s Congress on the priority of projects.
Children get inoculated at the newly-established Meijiang Street Community Medical Service Center in Tianjin on December 9, 2019 (Courtesy Photo)
“The number of suggestions we receive each year averages over 200. The most popular and achievable projects benefiting the most people are submitted to the People’s Congress, and the deputies vote annually on which projects to implement in the coming year,” said Sun Youxiang, Vice Director of the Standing Committee of the Hexi District Municipal People’s Congress.
How to ensure smooth implementation of those projects? Su said that the system is designed to ensure all parties concerned shoulder their responsibilities including supervision obligations. According to Su, in the past three years, a total of 28 projects were listed and finished on time.
Stories of the Deputies to the People’s Congress at Different Levels
Editor’s Note: China has over 2.6 million deputies at various levels of the People’s Congress. These deputies come from the people and thus represent the people. It is the role of deputies to maintain close contact with the people and serve as one of the bridges connecting them to the CPC and the government by conveying their concerns, suggestions and opinions, and helping to solve their problems.
NPC Deputy Lei Wenfang: Turning the People’s Expectations into Reality
Lei Wenfang discusses local issues with residents in Wufeng Neighborhood, Heichi Willage, Heyang County, Shanxi
On a rainy day in September in Wufeng neighborhood, Heichi Village in Heyang County of Shaanxi Province, there are few people on the roads between the fields but the neighborhood’s meeting hall is buzzing with activity. In the morning, Lei Wenfang, the Party branch secretary of the village gives a lecture on policy and, in the afternoon, agricultural professionals teach the latest techniques in sweet potato cultivation.
This arrangement of working on sunny days and learning on rainy days is a result of Lei’s works to consult with local people on their wants and needs. Lei has been a National People’s Congress (NPC) deputy for two consecutive terms, and during that time she has regularly visited households throughout Wufeng neighborhood, keeping up to date on residents’ ideas and opinions. It was a request from residents that led her to begin organizing training days on days when residents are unable to work in the fields.
In the past, basic infrastructure, including sanitation, remained backward in Wufeng, so Lei launched several projects to improve the local living environment. Under her lead, the neighborhood built a waste sorting facility, upgraded shared toilet facilities and built a sewage treatment station. Other infrastructure such as the community service center, entertainment venues roads and street lights were all improved.
Lei believed in the importance of improving the rural living environment as part of pushing forward comprehensive rural vitalization. During an NPC meeting in March, she made a submission requesting additional financial support for the projects and received feedback from the Ministry of Finance on June 28.
Lei also worked to develop the neighborhood’s daylily, plum, cherry, and persimmon businesses, and built a cold storage facility for the daylilies. She has also promoted the use of water-efficient irrigation technologies, and has provided more than 50 suggestions for promoting rural vitalization.
“As an NPC deputy, I am happy to work with the people on implementing whole-process people’s democracy and turning their expectations into reality,” Lei said.
Zhao Xi, Deputy to the People’s Congress of Tianhe District, Guangzhou: Whole-process Participatory Budget Monitoring
Members of Standing Committee of People’s Congress of Tianhe District, Guangzhou are using the online
budget supervision system (Courtesy Photo)
“The main focus for members of the People’s Congress is the fair use of the government’s budget,” said Lin Zhiyun, Deputy Secretary of the Standing Committee of Tianhe District People’s Congress in Guangzhou. “In Tianhe District, the supervision process begins while the budget is still being determined.”
Zhao Xi, deputy to the People’s Congress of Tianhe District and CEO of a local technology company, has experience working on the district’s whole-process participatory budget supervision.
Zhao was first elected as a member of the People’s Congress in 2011 and says the procedure for the deputies to supervise the government budgets at that time was simple and only lasted a few days.
According to Zhao, things began to change in 2013, with deputies becoming involved in deliberations during the planning phase of the annual budget.
Over the past eight years, the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress of Tianhe District has participated in the budget planning process for 58 government departments and projects. Of these, the budgets for 47 departments and six projects underwent whole-process monitoring that included supervision by popularly-elected deputies.
Demand for education has been rapidly developing in Tianhe District, and the government has built many new schools in recent years. In Early 2021, Zhao made a proposal for the first three years of maintenance fees to be included in the budget for each new school and the proposal was adopted by the district’s education authority.
“Whole-process participatory budget monitoring is not about cutting budgets. It aims to make government spending more transparent and scientific, which will end up promoting high-quality development.”