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Advisers Call for Public Input

China's top political advisers have called for the public to play a greater role in the evaluation, selection and promotion of government officials.


"We suggest changing the current appraisal system, which depends on mainly higher-level officials assessing lower-level ones to enlarge and strengthen the participation of citizens," said Chen Qingtai, deputy director of the Economic Affairs Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee.


"We should study and establish an evaluation system that allows government officials to pursue political achievements in line with sustainable economic and social development."


Chen made the call yesterday in a keynote speech on political system reform during a plenary meeting attended by more than 2,100 CPPCC members.


Chen, the former deputy director of the Development Research Centre under the State Council, did not give further details.


During his government work report delivered to the National People's Congress on Monday, Premier Wen Jiabao also pledged to enhance the transparency of government work and the participation of the public.


The move was apparently aimed at lessening local government officials' preoccupation with economic growth while ignoring public welfare.


CPPCC member Ma Peihua suggested the government focus more on performance in environmental protection rather than GDP growth when evaluating officials.


"Some local governments still blindly pursue GDP growth at the cost of a worsening environment and a huge amount of energy consumption," Ma said in his speech. "Although the government has included 'restrictive targets' such as pollutant discharge and energy conservation in its political performance appraisal."


As a result, the two major pollutants discharged last year in China increased by 1.2 and 1.8 percent respectively from 2005, with GDP and finance income up by 10.7 and 23.3 percent.


"When the two contradict each other, we should absolutely not sacrifice those restrictive targets for other benefits," Ma said. "Otherwise we are pursuing a short-term economic goal."


Ma suggested the country establish a responsibility and accountability system as soon as possible, with intensified supervision to follow.


But some CPPCC members considered it impractical to change the country's government official evaluation system in the near term.


"The current official appointment system is such a complicated political issue and it is impossible to extend much participation to the grassroots in China today," said economist Wu Jie. He added that although China's economic system has been overhauled over the past two decades, there is still a long way for the country to go in reforming its political system.


(China Daily March 11, 2007)

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