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Chinese Officials to Observe Georgia Runoff Elections

ATLANTA, GA.... High-ranking officials responsible for the conduct of elections in some 930,000 villages in China will be in Atlanta Aug. 9-13 to watch citizens vote in the runoff elections and to learn more about U.S. election procedures. Their visit includes a public forum from 4-6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 12, at The Carter Center, at which delegation leaders will discuss China village elections.

The nine election observers from the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) will be hosted by The Carter Center in conjunction with the Georgia Secretary of State's Office and the United States Information Agency. (Delegation list follows.) The Center recently launched a long-term project with the MCA to improve election practices in China's rural villages, where citizens have been voting for local mayors under a law established in 1987.

"Although the Chinese have been electing village leaders for a decade, procedures throughout the country vary greatly. There are no national standards, particularly in the key areas of candidate nomination and the use of secret ballot," said Dr. Robert Pastor, director of the Center's China Village Elections Project. "During their visit to Atlanta, these officials will observe our electoral process and the collection of results to give them ideas for standardizing the village election system in China."

On Monday, Aug. 10, Dr. Pastor, Tom Mishou, director of intergovernmental relations for the Georgia Secretary of State's Office, and University of Georgia professor Dr. Charles Bullock will brief the delegation on U.S. elections, the Constitution, politics in the South, and detailed election procedures.

On Tuesday, Aug. 11, the delegation will observe voting and speak with poll workers and county officials at numerous sites in Fulton and Dekalb counties in the morning. Election eve, they will observe a poll closing and vote count as well as the reporting of results at the Secretary of State's Office. At the forum on Wednesday, Aug. 12, from 4-6 p.m. the Chinese officials will discuss their observations of the U.S. electoral process and answer questions about village elections in China.

The Carter Center China Village Elections Project resulted from a landmark agreement signed last March between the Center and the People's Republic of China to collaborate on projects to improve the government's ability to conduct village elections and standardize election procedures nationwide. Most recently, Center representatives visited China in June to launch the pilot phase of a data collection system to help the MCA determine how elections are being conducted in a sample of the 930,000 villages holding elections. The Carter Center has monitored village elections in five China provinces.

In June, Center representatives also met with senior officials from the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a coalition of political parties that has worked with the Chinese government since 1949. Subsequently, the CPPCC sent a high level delegation to meet with Carter Center staff and President Carter in Atlanta on July 22 and 23. The Center's delegation also met in June with the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress, who invited the Center to observe China's township and county elections in the future.

"The willingness by senior Chinese officials to speak on topics previously thought to be very sensitive, such as elections and political parties, is a sign of a new openness and candor, which we have found very encouraging," said Dr. Pastor. "In August, we especially will welcome their comments on our electoral process, just as Carter Center delegations have presented their findings when we have monitored elections in China."

Delegation Members

Mr. Xu Liugen, Director-General, Department of International Cooperation,
Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) and delegation leader
Mr. Zhang Mingliang, Director-General, Department of Basic-Level Governance, MCA
Mr. Chen Xinxiu, Inspector, Department of Civil Affairs, Fujian Province
Mde. Chen Yi, Director, Center of Data and Information, MCA
Mde. Li Peiwei, Director, Basic-Level Governance Division, Department of Civil
Affairs, Hunan Province
Mr. Zhan Chengfu, Director, Rural Areas Section, Department of Basic-Level
Governance, MCA
Mr. Liu Yudong, Deputy Director, Basic-Level Governance Division, Department of Civil Affairs, Jilin Province
Mr. Liu Xitang, Program Officer, Department of Basic-Level Governance, MCA
Ms. Luo Xin, Program Officer and interpreter, Department of International
Cooperation, MCA

EDITORS NOTE: The delegation will be available for a brief photo and question opportunity at a 7 a.m. poll opening on Tuesday, Aug. 11, and a question opportunity during the public forum from 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12, at The Carter Center. Reporters should contact Deanna Congileo (404-420-5108) as soon as possible to register for these activities or discuss further coverage requests.

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