I have been entrusted by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) to explain the Draft Amendments to the Electoral Law of the National People's Congress and Local People's Congresses of the People's Republic of China.
I. Necessity of amending the Electoral Law
The electoral system is the foundation of the system of people's congresses. The Electoral Law is an important law which guarantees citizens the right to vote and the right to stand for election and which produces deputies to the people's congresses at all levels in accordance with the law. The Electoral Law was first enacted in 1953, revised in 1979, and it has been amended four times since then. At the Seventeenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), it was proposed that we should firmly develop socialist democratic politics, expand the people's democracy, and ensure the people are the masters of the country. It was also suggested that we should gradually achieve the goal of electing deputies to people's congresses based on the same population ratio in urban and rural areas. In order to implement the requirements put forward at the Seventeenth National Congress, it was necessary to appropriately revise the Electoral Law on the basis of a review of our practical experience of elections.
The ratio of urban to rural population for electing a deputy to a people's congress is an important part of the Electoral Law. After the founding of New China and when the first electoral law was enacted in 1953, the urban population in China was relatively small - only 13.26% according to the 1953 national census. Given that the working class was mainly concentrated in cities at that time, in order to reflect the leading position of the working class in national political life and the orientation toward industrial development, the Electoral Law included differing regulations on the number of people needed to elect a deputy in rural and urban areas. For instance, the regulations for electing an NPC deputy stipulated that each province could elect one deputy for every 800,000 people, and municipalities directly under the central government and cities under the jurisdiction of provincial governments with a population of more than 500,000 people could elect one deputy for every 100,000 people. Such stipulations were absolutely necessary and conformed with China's political system and the particular situation at that time. When the Electoral Law was revised in 1979, the urban population had reached 18.96%. As a result, the 1953 stipulations basically remained in place and no big changes were made with respect to electing deputies to people's congresses based on different population ratios in urban and rural areas; however, the stipulations on ratios for people's congresses at different levels were clarified: the ratio was stipulated as eight to one for the NPC, five to one for people's congresses of provinces and autonomous regions, and four to one for people's congresses of counties and for autonomous prefectures and counties.
Since implementation of the policy of reform and opening up, China's economy and society have developed rapidly, urbanization has moved ahead unceasingly, and the urban and rural population composition has changed considerably. Based on the new circumstances and new situation, the NPC Standing Committee has made timely improvements to the electoral system and has amended and improved the provisions on electing deputies to people's congresses based on different population ratios in urban and rural areas. When the Electoral Law was revised in 1982, the following provision was added: in counties or autonomous counties which have towns with exceptionally large populations or enterprises and institutions whose workers and staff account for a relatively large proportion, the ratio between the number of people represented by a rural deputy and the number of people represented by a town deputy or a deputy from an enterprise or institution may, subject to a decision by the standing committee of the people's congress of the province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the central government, be smaller than four to one, even one to one. When the Electoral Law was revised in 1995, the ratio of rural population to urban population represented by a deputy to the NPC or to the people's congress of the province or autonomous region was amended as four to one, the same as autonomous prefectures and counties.
Since 1995, China's industrialization and urbanization have accelerated further, the economic and cultural level in rural areas has increased dramatically, and profound changes have taken place in the social structure. The urban population in China has increased from 29.04% in 1995 to 46.6% in 2009. At the same time, people's congresses at all levels have gone through many terms of elections, accumulated abundant experience, achieved enormous results in developing socialist democratic politics and a socialist legal system, and the class base and mass foundation for the people's democratic dictatorship led by the Party has been consolidated and expanded. The objective conditions are in place for revising the Electoral Law and electing deputies to the people's congresses based on the same population ratio in urban and rural areas.