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Xinhua Insight: Mao era practice settles community disputes

English.news.cn   2014-03-12 20:42:48

BEIJING, March 12 (Xinhua) -- Class struggle against landlords and counter-revolutionaries was still the norm in China in 1963, when Mao Zedong singled out a township in the east for the way it handled disputes.

Fengqiao in Zhejiang Province came up with a practice of resolving social conflicts among the residents themselves, rather than handing disputes over to higher authorities.

The Fengqiao Experience, as it is officially known, is still seen as an exemplary practice in China today.

In Monday's work report by the Supreme People's Court to the top legislature, Chief Justice Zhou Qiang said the Fengqiao Experience bred social harmony and should be put to more use.

China has changed significantly over the past five decades. In 1963, the effects of three years of famine from 1958 to 1961 were still being felt. Now, the world's second largest economy is also the world's largest marketplace. Poverty has been greatly reduced and now less than 100 million people live under the poverty line.

Despite great strides in economic development and social progress, disputes and conflicts are still common in today's China. People complain of loss of land, corruption and pollution. Officials, obsessed by stability, are always on the lookout for mechanisms like the Fengqiao Experience to address public grievances.

China has yet to build channels for groups to voice and safeguard their interests, said Shao Xiaoying, an associate professor of social sciences at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Social services need to be improved for millions of migrants who are vulnerable to social injustice, she said.

To address local conflicts, the Fengqiao Experience requires public support. It can be useful to protect the floating population and tackle small incidents, according to Shan Guangnai, a sociologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Zhejiang is known for its vibrant private sector and enterprising businessmen. There, officials have learnt from Fengqiao that public support is critical for good government. Party and government officials there are briefed on both the economy and social stability on a monthly basis. Xia Baolong, Party chief of Zhejiang, requires all levels of committees to solve stability issues and deal with social stability reports in the same way they handle economic matters.

Elsewhere, administrations have campaigned to eradicate community crime and civil disputes by mobilizing the masses, a signature feature of Fengqiao.

Shaoxing City in Zhejiang invites citizens via social media to patrol streets.

In Huqiu District of Suzhou city in Jiangsu Province, about 90 percent of crimes targeted the floating population, who only account for 9 percent of the local community. The police began to monitor apartment registrations and leases more closely, and asked local citizens to report any irregularities. Crime has since fallen by about 30 percent in the district.

In Sichuan Province, four levels of mediation councils composed of professionals handle land disputes, property management, environmental issues, labor and medical disputes.

Shao sees China's economic restructuring as bringing changes which will erode vested interests, and wants market entities to play key roles in social services and civil disputes.

While she applauds the way authorities handle disputes by reaching down to local communities, Shao Xiaoying believes it is far from enough.

Editor: Yang Yi
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