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Migrant Workers Have Say in Chongqing Legislature

Southwest China's Chongqing municipality legislature started its annual session on Sunday with the attendance of 51 migrant worker deputies, the first in the city's history.

"As a migrant worker, I felt the city that I serve has recognized our status," said 24-year-old deputy Huang Chunyan who works as a bus attendant.

The migrant worker deputies, who heard the work report of the local government on Sunday morning, will vote on the city's budget and elect officials, including the mayor, at the first session of the third Chongqing People's Congress.

Since her election, Huang has carried a notebook with her and jotted down the suggestions and complaints of other migrant workers. She has submitted a proposal to improve social security for migrant workers to the congress.

He Zeyu, a migrant worker who watched the live broadcast of the session in the square outside the convention center, said "I am glad to see that we have seats in the congress. We now have better ways to let people know what we want".

Migrant workers accounted for 5.86 percent of the 864 deputies to the legislature. The ratio of officials and cadres had dropped 3.9 percentage points to 432, according to Ai Zhiquan, deputy secretary general of the standing committee of the Chongqing People's Congress.

Professor Dan Yanzheng of the Southwest University of Political Science and Law said it is a social trend for more migrant workers to appear in legislatures. "Migrant workers will gradually enjoy as many political rights as other groups in the development of society."

Statistics show more than seven million farmers in Chongqing leave their villages to work in cities each year.

China currently has more than 200 million migrant workers, mostly farmers from the west seeking work in eastern boomtowns. Chongqing is one of the major migrant worker source areas.

As the number of migrants steadily rises, this has prompted China's legislature and government to consider improving their welfare conditions, health care and education rights.

The National People's Congress, China's legislature, adopted last year a resolution providing for rural migrant worker representatives in the national parliament for the upcoming National People's Congress in March.

China vowed to deepen political restructuring at the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October that charted the nation's road map for future years.

President Hu Jintao said at the congress that "People's democracy is the lifeblood of socialism ... The essence and core of socialist democracy are that the people are masters of the country".

Yan Shuhan, a researcher with the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, said the increased number of grassroots deputies in legislatures showed the political restructuring process was on track.

Migrant workers had also entered legislatures in a number of provinces and municipalities, including Guangdong, Shanghai and Jiangxi, before the Chongqing congress started the annual session.

(Xinhua News Agency January 21, 2008)

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