BEIJING, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- Safeguarding people's rights and interests is the fundamental means of maintaining social stability, the Communist Party of China (CPC) chief of a county in southwest China's Guizhou Province said Thursday.
"After the unrest, we came to realize that social stability requires maximum efforts to protect people's rights and interests," Sha Xiangui, secretary of the Weng'an county CPC committee, said in an interview published in the Thursday edition of the People's Daily.
A violent protest broke out in Weng'an on June 28, 2008, when about 30,000 local residents stormed police and government office buildings after rumors spread that police had covered up the rape and murder of a teenage girl. A further investigation revealed that she had drowned.
Local officials admitted that there were social grievances in Weng'an, citing issues such as county authorities failing to resolve disputes over mines, homes being demolished for urban building projects, residents being relocated for reservoir construction and state-owned enterprise reforms.
Sha said the unrest was a mirror reflecting the struggles backward areas face in transforming themselves through development.
"The county needs to develop its economy in leaps while simultaneously improving people's livelihoods," Sha said.
The county's economy had been developing remarkably prior to the unrest. Statistics show that the county's GDP nearly doubled in the eight years leading up to the incident.
"It occurred because the government failed to improve people's livelihoods for too long a time, causing mounting problems and grievances," Sha said.
The official said the county has been working hard to make up for the past by prioritizing education, creating jobs, enhancing the rural medical care system and constructing affordable housing units.
Over the last two years, the county has been working on a mechanism to make it easier for people to express their complaints, as well as a mediation system for social problems.
Sha said the unrest exposed tension between local officials and the people, as well as a loss of credibility for the local government at the time.
After the unrest, the county government asked officials to visit local residents and listen to their opinions, according to Sha.
Data from two sample surveys conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that around 94 percent of respondents were satisfied with the county officials' work.
Ge Qiyi, a teenager who torched a government building during the unrest, turned to the police for help when he was involved in a recent business dispute, according to Sha.
"There are more and more people like him who trust law enforcement and other authorities when they are in trouble," said Sha.
The county has also strengthened the democratic management of community organizations by engaging people in discussions on important issues, including the adjustment of agricultural structures and the comprehensive management of public security.
Sha said the unrest not only exposed lax management at the community level, but also reflected the people's increased awareness of rights and participation.
"The management of community organizations should advance with the times," said Sha.