Inefficient public participation in politics

By Zhang Yiwei Source:Global Times Published: 2013-8-7 0:38:01

Inefficiencies in China's system of political participation are pushing the public to express their demands through irregular petitions or mass incidents, according to a Monday report on the country's political development.

The report, the first of its kind compiled by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), reviewed China's progress on political issues in 2012.

In describing the "irregular" means by which members of the public demand their rights, the report said these incidents can have a negative influence on stability and officials should stay alert, pointing out that more effective systems should be set up to facilitate public participation in political affairs.

The cases mentioned in the report were mostly related to the environment. Thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the possible environmental and health risks that could be brought by a planned heavy metal refinery in Shifang, Sichuan Province in July 2012, prompting authorities to scrap the project. In the same month, demonstrators in Qidong, Jiangsu Province, tore the clothes off the local Party chief during a rally against an industrial waste pipeline of the Japan-based Oji Paper Group.

The report said these incidents reflect poor communication between the authorities and the public, and attributed this to the fact that officials find their hands tied when faced with mass protests, adding that the public appeared to win as officials stepped back, and that this was not a healthy way of participating in political affairs.

"General opportunities and standard platforms provided for people to get involved in politics are limited, causing them to resort to other ways to vent their voices," Zhu Lijia, director of the Public Administration Studies at the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times

"The People's Congress system at different levels should be the only effective and regular way, as deputies in those congresses are obliged to speak for the public," Zhu said.

"But the fact is that they are not doing what they are required to do, nor are they listening to the public. Some of them are even elected through backdoor connections," Zhu noted.

The report also pointed out that Net users' voices, another key form of political participation, can have a negative effect.

Net users' questions led to the sacking of Lei Zhengfu, former Party chief of Chongqing's Beibei district, in 2012 after he was recorded in a sex video.

"If authorities keep making decisions following pressure from the public, it will harm their credibility on a long term basis. Fully making use of the political participation systems and channels and encouraging the public to join under the protection of correct policymaking procedures are critical," said the report.

Posted in: Politics, Society

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