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Former U.S. President and Nobel Laureate Jimmy Carter Travels to China to Promote Carter Center's Work on Village Elections

ATLANTA…. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will open a Beijing conference Sept. 8 on village elections and meet with government officials in support of The Carter Center's project to improve electoral procedures of the villager committees.

Since 1998, The Carter Center's China Village Elections Project, in cooperation with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, has advised on better procedures and voter education and trained election officials. Building upon its achievements, the Center will work with the National People's Congress to help standardize electoral procedures for people's congress deputies at the township and county levels..

"One of the most exciting developments in China in recent years is the confidence villagers are developing in their local governments because they are allowed to determine who their local leaders will be," said President Carter. "I look forward to talking with elections officials as they report on the great progress that has been made."

President Carter will give opening remarks at the conference at the Zhongmin Hotel, 17 Baiguanglu, on Sept. 8 at 9:30 a.m. He and Ministry of Civil Affairs Minister Li Xueju will award 19 chosen winners of an essay contest on village elections and villager self-government sponsored by the Carter Center and its partners in China. The opening session of the conference is open to media. Media planning to attend should contact Liu Feng of the Ministry of Civil Affairs at 010-8520-3185 to reserve seating.

Essays were submitted by villagers, scholars, and government officials, and winners were chosen by a committee of government officials, scholars, and the Carter Center's Dr. Yawei Liu, associate director of the Center's China Village Elections Project. The Center is working with Chinese election scholars and political reform experts to assess local elections and to design procedures that increase the openness and competitiveness of these elections.

President Carter also will address students at Beijing University on Sept. 9 at 10 a.m. Following his speech, he will take questions from students. Media are invited to observe but need to R.S.V.P. with the Chinese Foreign Ministry's press office at 010-6588-2585 or ipc@fmprc.gov.cn.

The Chinese government introduced direct village elections in 1988 under a provisional law. In 1998, the law was revised to introduce many universally recognized election procedures such as fixed term, open and free nomination, secret ballots, and recall. Today, village elections occur in some 700,000 villages across China, reaching 75 percent of the nation's 1.3 billion people. Village elections give rural citizens a say in their community life, such as land contracting, village finance, road building, and economic activities.

Read aboutthe Carter Center's China Village Elections Project


The project has achieved impressive results, including:

· Developing a data information system with 233 computers at the county, municipal, and provincial civil affairs offices in the Hunan, Fujian, Jilin, and Shaanxi provinces and training 260 computer operators
· Hosting a national seminar in 2000 to revise the National Procedures on Villager Committee Elections, following which 50,000 copies of the handbook were printed and distributed
· Training 730 local election officials to foster better understanding of election procedures and to compare experiences across the provinces
· Training 300 elected chairs of villager committees in the Shandong and Shaanxi provinces on villager self-government procedures, including managing village finances, organizing villager assemblies, and resolving conflict
· Sponsoring the National Information Network on Villager Self-government to facilitate the national and global exchange of information on grassroots democracy
· Exchanging more than 10 delegations between MCA officials and Center experts
· Conducting pilots and organizing meetings on the direct elections of people's congress deputies at the township/county levels and
· Launching the Web site www.chinaelections.org in Chinese and English to provide Chinese officials a resource center for governance and election affairs.

Prior to arriving in China, President and Mrs. Carter will visit Tokyo from Sept. 4-6 to promote the Carter Center's work to increase agricultural production and eradicate Guinea worm disease in Africa. Read about the Carters' trip to Japan.

The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, the Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 65 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production.

Learn more about the Carter Center's work in China.


PHOTO: CLARO CORTES IV/REUTERS 
Residents cast their ballots during the Quanwang village election in Zhouzhuang town, about 40 miles from Shanghai, September 5, 2001. Former President Jimmy Carter witnessed the polls as part of the Atlanta-based Carter Center's long-term project to support and monitor village elections in China's countryside.

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