Equal representation for all
Next year's National People's Congress (NPC) will have roughly one deputy representing every 670,000 citizens, marking the first time that urban and rural residents will have equal representation.
NPC spokesman Li Zhaoxing confirmed yesterday that new election guidelines and a re-allotment of deputy seats for the next NPC will be among the agenda items for the annual meeting, which begins today and will be the fifth and last session for the current NPC.
Prior to 1995, there was a NPC deputy for every 800,000 rural residents and one for every 100,000 urban residents, to protect workers' rights in the cities.
Following the gradual growth of the urban population, this ratio was reduced to four-to-one in 1995, and finally removed in a revision of the Electoral Law in March 2010.
While saying that elections for the next NPC will enhance the voting rights of Chinese citizens, Li also said it would be difficult for direct elections to be further expanded beyond the current scope, which is limited to the election of deputies of people's congresses at grass-roots levels of counties and villages.
'All forms of democracy must be compatible with the conditions of a society's economy, politics and culture,' Li said.
'Our country is geographically vast with a huge population, and economic and social development across the country is uneven, with some places remaining difficult to access. It is still difficult to have all-out direct elections.'
The Electoral Law currently specifies that the number of NPC deputies will not top 3,000, so following the 2010 amendments, the number of deputies to be elected by each constituency must be re-allotted. These constituencies are currently all the mainland provinces and municipalities, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and the People's Liberation Army.
Besides the principle of allotting a seat for every 670,000 citizens, Li said there would be a basic number of eight seats for every province, autonomous region or municipality directly administered by the central government, regardless of population. And every ethnic minority will have at least one deputy.
These NPC deputies are to be elected within the next year by deputies for provincial-level people's congresses, who will be in turn elected by deputies for city-level people's congresses, who will be elected by deputies for county- and village-level people's congresses.
Direct elections for county- and village-level deputies began last year. Professor Zhang Qianfan of Peking University said he hoped the new deputy-seat allotment could partially address the current problem of NPC delegates having a weak link to the local needs of their province.
He said that due to the current indirect-election system, a largely agricultural province may not have many NPC delegates representing the farmers, 'because they are elected by the provincial people's congress deputies, rather than by the local residents'.