New plan to hear public opinions

Updated: 2011-09-05 07:11

By Wang Huazhong (China Daily)

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BEIJING - The Ministry of Civil Affairs has dispatched community workers in every city to knock from door to door in the next three months to canvass citizens' concerns and difficulties in a major bid to improve social management.

This step toward the public follows recent campaigns in which other ministries and local governments organized extensive visits to households to address major social problems.

"The aim is to consolidate lawful appeals and reasonable needs that the majority of citizens call for strongly," said a briefing statement by the ministry. The work should revolve around strengthening and reforming social management."

All community workers and officials with sub-district offices in cities will participate in the campaign "visiting thousands of households, visiting thousands of people" which begins this month.

In Beijing alone, there are more than 20,000 full-time community workers at local residential committees and sub-district offices.

They will visit registered residents, migrant populations, community and social organizations, as well as companies and work units in their communities.

The ministry also requires the residential committees of every community to set up ad hoc dossiers to record the opinions of groups that have special difficulties and special appeals, including senior citizens living alone, people with disabilities, former inmates and poor families.

Visits to those disadvantaged groups should be made first, the statement said.

The groups' difficulties, including children's school enrollment, employment, social welfare and housing should also be addressed, it said.

Social policy experts hold mixed views toward the massive campaign, which will last for three months.

Ge Daoshun, a sociology professor with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the campaign will help the authorities find out about problems but the more important thing is to address these issues.

Ge said the civil affairs authorities should organize rather than execute the plan.

"Such a massive campaign is not sustainable. They should empower and finance non-government organizations to take care of citizens' concerns."

Chen Tao, a professor with the social work research center at China Youth University for Political Sciences, agreed the government should administer and support civilian organizations to deal with the public.

"The authorities always focus their energy on maintaining social order, and therefore cannot fully perform the role of serving the public," he said.

"But the extensive visits surely will allow the public to explain their problems and will create a channel for delivering grassroots information to policymakers."

In a speech at a seminar attended by provincial and ministerial-level officials in February, President Hu Jintao acknowledged that, despite China's remarkable social and economic development and growth in its overall national strength, the country is "still in a stage where many conflicts are likely to arise".

China is experiencing rapid economic and social development, which creates "prominent problems causing unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable development", Hu said.

In some cases, when their problems were not resolved a few groups with special needs resorted to extremism, such as the copycat attacks on schoolchildren in recent years.

The Ministry of Public Security and many local governments, such as Chongqing municipality and Kunming city in Southwest China, had therefore encouraged officials to make regular visits to households.

In Chongqing, every official must spend a few weeks eating, working and sleeping in the same house with grassroots people.