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Migrant Workers May Be Given Election Rights in Cities

China's State Council, or Cabinet, is considering two law amendments that would allow migrant workers to run for election on to their community committees if they lived in the area long enough.

The action will require amendments to both the Village Committee Organization Law and the Urban Resident Committee Organization Law, and would strengthen the protection of migrant worker rights.

The second revision of the Village Committee Organization Law since 1998 also included clauses on judicial remedy and election bribery, said Wang Jinhua, a senior official with the Ministry of Civil Affairs on Sunday, without giving details.

Now some local regulations allow rural migrant workers the right to run in local committee elections if they had lived in an urban community for more than six months.

Wang said China had a floating population of 150 million, and it was increasing by five million every year. "It's the largest of its kind in the world, almost equal to the entire US electorate."

The government is seeking to bolster their legal rights by requiring their native villages to inform them of upcoming elections and urban committees to consult them before making decisions that could significantly affect their interests.

In addition, migrant workers would have the right to set up their own associations and labor unions and enjoy the same rights as urban residents.

The Village Committee Organization Law was passed in 1988, and the 1998 revision specified committee functions, election procedures and official tenures.

According to Wang, the average participation rate in a village committee election is 80 percent, and every villager can directly vote for a candidate.

However, only 22 percent of urban communities were elected directly by residents. The rest of them are elected by representatives of households and resident groups.

Wang said direct election might cover half of all urban communities by 2010 as Chinese urban dwellers are no longer attached to their working places (Danwei) as they were before and are having closer ties with the communities they live in.

By the end of 2007, China had a total of 80,717 city communities and 443,060 members of urban resident committees.

All 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities have drawn up committee election methods.

The village autonomous system started in the 1980s and a main plank of the country's rural reform.

(Xinhua News Agency August 4, 2008)

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