Cadres should be patient and sensitive in handling public distress and complaints, a senior leader has urged.
During an inspection tour to Hebei province last week, Politburo Standing Committee member Li Ruihuan underscored the importance of maintaining social stability while promoting social tolerance.
Echoing what Premier Zhu Rongji said last month on how cadres should deal with mass demonstrations, Mr Li stressed that cadres must bear in mind that nobody could be regarded as above the law.
'Ruling the country according to law is our stated policy and it was confirmed in the 15th Communist Party Congress,' Mr Li was quoted by Xinhua as saying.
'We must follow through on this policy in maintaining a stable society.
'Regardless of who they are, everybody is equal before the law,' Xinhua reported.
He said that to ensure normal order in society, the law must be used as a weapon to punish 'the small minority of law breakers'.
In his Government Work Report, Premier Zhu told cadres not to use 'dictatorial means against the people' in handling incidents of social unrest.
Expounding upon a similar theme, Mr Li said that cadres must listen to public complaints and be patient in dealing with public discontent.
He reminded cadres to fully consider the tolerance level of society before implementing government policies and avoid drastic measures that would risk putting people's livelihood in jeopardy.
Cadres must strive hard to bring relief to those families that have lost out in the implementation of reforms.
China faces a serious unemployment problem. About seven million workers in state-owned enterprises are expected to be laid off this year.
Mr Li, who is also chairman of the advisory Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said that extra caution was all the more needed this year.
'Mr Li pointed out that social stability will be especially important this year, when some major historical events will take place,' Xinhua said.
China is due to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic in October and the Macau handover in December.
But tension is expected to rise next month when the 10th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown nears.