Ministry of Civil Affairs Official Suggests Need for Revisions to Law Governing Village Committees

February 11, 2005

In an interview carried on the Ministry of Justice Web site, the head of the basic-level governance department of the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MOCA) suggested that existing laws governing village committees remain insufficient and in need of revision.

According to the interview, existing regulations lack sufficient detail about the legal status of the village committees and about how to address electoral corruption. The comments follow other MOCA statements clarifying that candidates may use their own funds to improve public services, or promise to do so, without contravening anti-corruption rules. As Chinese commentators have noted, the absence of clear guidelines on the definition of electoral corruption often gives township and county governments wide latitude to interfere with village elections. Villagers often express their discontent with election results by resorting to the extra-legal xinfang system.

Combined with recent discussion of amendments to the law governing urban residents' committees, this interview suggests that MOCA may be seeking significant revisions to laws concerning basic-level governance. As noted by an article in the Southern Metropolitan Daily, 18 provinces will hold elections for some 300,000 village committees this year.