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As vote kicks off, villagers get new power
Date:2010/11/2      View:1043
Villagers in Southeast China's Fujian province held a vote on Friday to decide whether to oust their village chief - just one day after the country's top legislature passed a law giving rural people more voting powers.

The revised Organic Law of Village Committees was adopted by the National People's Congress Standing Committee on Thursday and gives rural people the right to remove village committee members and convene meetings to decide village affairs.

According to the new law, a voting process to dismiss a representative can be held after more than 20 percent of villagers with the vote - or one-third of village residents - put forward an application. If the number of votes in favor is more than half of the total number of voters in the village, the committee member will be removed from office.

On Friday, one day after the new law was adopted, Dongmen village in Fuzhou kicked off the recall process for three village committee members, including the village chief. The application to hold the vote was supported by 345 villagers.

Their previous two applications in September were refused.

Located in the capital city of Fujian, Dongmen, with a population of 1,962, has benefited from land lease. According to the village committee's report, the village's gross domestic product in 2007 was 1.6 billion yuan ($230 million) and the per capita income of the villagers was 8,637 yuan a year.

But a group of villagers claimed that village committee members had never published a financial report and questioned whether there was corruption in the committee.

"Dongmen is supposed to be a very rich village, but we don't know where the money has gone, and who is benefiting from selling and renting our land," said Chen Qin, a 32-year-old villager. "Corrupt committee members should be removed from office."

Chen said she earned less than 1,500 yuan a month as a migrant worker. She claimed that village committee members had made a fortune by selling or renting public land.

Friday's voting started at 6 am and the voting site was patrolled by 40 guards.

Despite the fact that 498 of the 590 votes cast called for the ousting of the three village committee members, those calling for their dismissal fell short because they did not get the support of half of the villagers. For the vote to be valid, it needed the support of some 800 people.

Some villagers protested the result and claimed that local village committee members had cheated in the process.

Nearly 100 villagers gathered in protest around the village committee's office after the vote was held.

"We publish a financial report every quarter and we meet all the conditions required by law and go through all necessary procedures," insisted Wang Bangbo, the village's Party secretary.

"Some individuals' private interests were violated during the village's development, so they agitated the others to vote against us," said Guo Ruiyu, one of three village committee members on the recall list.

Chen Youxiang, deputy village head in Dongmen, who was also on the recall list, showed reporters around the dilapidated offices.

"Some villagers rushed into our office and smashed all the furniture," he said.

Village spokesman Lin Zhixing said all three committee members will keep their positions and their careers will not be affected by the vote, despite the fact that almost one-third of the residents clearly wanted them to be ejected.

"We'll apply for another dismissing vote," said a 30-year-old woman surnamed Jiang. "We elected the committee members and we also have the right to recall the incompetent ones through a vote."
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