Taishi and Village Impeachment

A "Bobby Fletcher" alerted me to this great report in the Asiapundit comment fields. (for background of Taishi incidents see ESWN)

The reported is hosted in a site maintained by pro-democracy leaders in the late 1980s (who fled from China after 1989), including Hu Ping, Han Dongfang, and student leaders in 1989 Feng Congde and Zhou Fengsuo.

I have been under the impression that Taishi was the first case of village chief impeachment/recall. Then I learned that Lu Banglie himself had done it before (he was elected after impeaching the previous corrupted mayor of Baoyueshi Village in Apr 2004), I suspect there must have been many other cases around China. This report solved the puzzle for us.

It documented a total of 52 cases, between March 1999 and Dec 2003, of which 30 led to successful recall, the rest mostly lost their cases, or remained unresolved. So the success rate was close to 60%, higher if one rejects the unresolved cases in the data. These are cases that had reached the impeachment voting stage (after gathering 20% voter signatures). The number of all cases (including those like Taishi) has to be higher.

  • Some were recall/impeachement of the village mayor (Zhu-ren主任), some target the whole village leadership "cabinet"
  • Update (Oct 17): According Bainiandouzhi Weekly, I miscounted. Total numner of village:53; 27 success, 3 partial success, 7 failed, 3 request for impeachment rejected, 13 results unknown (1999年3月6日~2003年12月17日;地域跨 度为:黑龙江、浙江、河北、江西、福建、甘肃、山东、海南、江 苏、上海、河南、四川、山西、安徽、贵州、北京、陕西、内蒙古、 宁夏、云南、广东等21个省级行政单位的53个村;其中27个村罢免成 功,3个村罢免局部成功,7个村罢免失败,3个村罢免性质非法,13 个村罢免效果未知)

This is, however, an incomplete list, as it does not include cases in 2004 and beyond, nor that of Lu Banglie's Baoyueshi Village (Hubei is not studied in this report). Only 21 provinces/municipality/AR were studied, out of a total of 31 in the mainland. The report was completed on Dec 22, 2003.

Bobby was also kind to comment on the frequency of "only" 52 cases, reminding us that "one must remember impeachment proceedings by definition are exceptional course. Please remember even we in the West don't have it that often (and they rarely pass)." One can debate whether the number of cases being 52 is a low or reasonable frequency for China's total of 66000 villages. But it is a very encouraging number in any measure to me. It is also statistically significant to be used as a basis to try for further reforms.

Perhaps this has been reported before, so forgive my ignorance. I think it is worthwhile to understand this report and the list of case studies. Given these other cases, I am hopeful and optimistic about Wen's plan to push election to the township level, despite the recent set back in Taishi/Panyu.

  • The Taishi/Yutowuo/Panyu case very likely involves local corruption. Sooner or later the central government is going to take care of them, given the national and international exposure. (Remember the case of Beijing Mayor Chen Xitong?)
  • Taishi is only one case out of more than 52 cases in total (perhaps over 100 by now). Many other villages (e.g. Baoyueshi) were able to get rid of the bad guys, though most had gone through a rough road. "Democracy" was run "better" elsewhere in China.
  • Unfortunately, it is really up to the local government to ensure a fair election (and impeachement). The problem of Yutowuo today is that Yutowuo Township and Panyu City mayors cannot be impeached. That is the real pity. But over time, a rather long period of time, this would be changed.
  • Success rate had been around 60% and there were significant cases with no serious problem or 'chaos', CCP is getting comfortable with what has been going on. What they are afraid of is 'chaos' (Luan 乱). That perhaps could explain why the central government chose to turn a blind eye on the Taishi corruption (because the villagers had staged demonstration out of despair and that was a sign of 'chaos'). They are worried about chaos so much that they would rather tolerate corruption for a while (under their muddled logic).

There may be divided views within the Hu-Wen leadership about how to interpret the Taishi case, but one out of 100 is not a representative sample of 'chaos'. Had the village mayor not been able to collude with his superior, or the township head been popularly elected and hence responsible to the people, the villagers could have been able to impeach the mayor like many other villages successfully did, via a peaceful and orderly procedure. There won't be demonstration and protest. There won't be the case of mob attack and international embarassment.

I hope this is what the central government learns. Before election is extended to townships, the best way to prevent 'chaos' is to assign social workers or lawyers to assist the villagers who need help. Social workers/lawyers for 680,000 villages may be costly to keep, but there are volunteers out there, and one lawyer/volunteer can take care of multiple villages. Once election is extended to townships, the economics improves, as there are only 4000 townships in China. A properly elected Township mayor could take care of the villages under his township. In a few more years, they only have to worry about the 666 cities. As Wen jiabao said, "This system [of direct voting] will be realized step by step." And it really CAN be, without causing 'chaos'.


  1. Update on Lu Banglie's physical condition here (via ESWN). I can now say that BJW's first report about Lu's condition was not very accurate.
  2. This old report from USIP (via daveinchina), though lengthy, is also worth reading. It sheds some light on the different case studies (some successes like Lu's village, some failures like Taishi) across China.
  3. (update Oct 31: also this some questions for us to ponder.
  4. Some stories of Lu Banglie here, eg, eg, in Chinese. The path for himself suffered the same beating and setback quite similar to that of Taishi. Update: ESWN has translated one of them. Courtesy to Bobby. Bobby, you should get your own blog.

Update (Oct 13):

  • According to Bobby, Ian Mayes of the Guardian said it will issue a "Correction" of the first reporting of BJW, and there will be "an op-ed/column on Monday 17th regarding the issue". I do not know what they will say in the op-ed. I personally believe BJW (and Guardian) has learned his lesson and should be given a second chance. If the Guardian is courageous enough to admit its mistake its reputation and brand will only be enhanced, and it should not be viewed as an admission of failure. But I am not sure how 'courageous' they are, as corporations tend cover their own a$$. I hope the Guardian can set an example for the Guangzhou gevernment that sometimes doing the right thing might be more rewarding than continue moving downhill.)

Update (Oct 17): The Guardian op-ed is out. I hope this settles the controversy and we can all move back to the Taishi cause, I posted a comment on Anti's emotionless/commentless straight translation of the Guardian, he agreed 'totally'. Here is a translation of my comment over his post

  • "I am now feeling sympathetic of poor Benjamin ... please see Simon and Asiapundit's comments. I feel Asiapundit's title is better than yours. Anyhow, let's put a full stop at this paragraph. Taishi and other villages are where our attention should focus on. Western media still believe that there is only one Taishi. I hope you folks can report on the other hundreds of impeachment/recall cases."
  • 我现在反而同情可怜的本了...请看http://simonworld.mu.nu/archives/126513.php, http://www.asiapundit.com/2005/10/guardian_pleads.html. 我认为ASIAPUNDIT的标题比你的好.无论如何,这件事就让他告一段落吧.太石和其他村落才是值得我们注意的地方.四方媒体现在还以为只有一个太石.希望你们能多报道其他上百个成功罢免的案例.

Update (oct16):

  • For those who can read Chinese, please check out this site: chinaelection.org (via Forest)> There are many (including on-going) case studies in China's democracy lessons. Taishi is only one of them, the success or failure of Taishi (or any single case) is important, but it is also only one among the hundreds or thousands, of cases.
  • Also, many Taishi reporting and discussions in China were not banned, including Netease's special coverage
  • As bingfeng pointed out, "it's dangerous to generalize in china, not only dangerous to generalize from an isolated case like taishi, but also dangerous to generalize from the 52 cases cited by sun bin" We need more stories from other villages.
  • Update (oct17): Here are more stories, courtesy of Bobby again. Each of them may worth at least a 1000, if not 3500 word story.

original text of the report below:


2003 年9月8日正式启动,直至2003年12月22日彻底完成之时,总共历时 105天。该报告全长26,704字,系1999年~2003年中国村级罢免状况之民间个案版本,是一份专门研究中国农村基层政权问题的严肃档案。其记录 的历史跨度为:1999年3月6日~2003年12月17日;地域跨度为:黑龙江、浙江、河北、江西、福建、甘肃、山东、海南、江苏、上海、河南、四川、 山西、安徽、贵州、北京、陕西、内蒙古、宁夏、云南、广东等21个省级行政单位的53个村;其中27个村罢免成功,3个村罢免局部成功,7个村罢免失败, 3个村罢免性质非法,13 个村罢免效果未知。交由《民主论坛》首发的本文,是近两年以来我 一点一滴地记录於笔记本中的个案要点,亦是《1999~2003:中国民间村级罢免报告》大部分内容的纲要指南。 《1999~2003:中国民间村级罢免报告》大纲按:1988年,中共保守派彭真组织立法--《中华人民共和国村民委员会组织法》,遭到强烈反对。其 后,该法在人大常委会中以《中华人民共和国村民委员会组织法(试行)》确立。遭到反对并以「试行」的名义来确立的原因有三:(一)认为农民素质低;(二) 认为是搞资产阶级自由化;(三)认为该法律不完善。1998年11月4日,第9届全国人民代表大会常务委员会第5次会议通过《中华人民共和国村民委员会组 织法》,取消了「试行」2字。该法第16条规定:「本村5分之1以上有选举权的村民联名,可以要求罢免村民委员会成员。罢免要求应当提出罢免理由。被提出 罢免的村民委员会成员有权提出申辩意见。村民委员会应当及时召开村民会议,投票表决罢免要求。 罢免村民委员会成员须经有选举权的村民过半数通过。」须特别注明的是:村民会议不能以村民代表会议、村党员会议、村组干部会议、 村民委员会会议或者村党支委会议来取代;村民会议是中国村级会议 当中最为权威、最为庄严的会议,因此又被称作「村民大会」;罢免村委会干部的村民会议被称作「村民罢免会议」。




9月29日。江苏省灌南县六塘乡二圩村。罢免对象:村委主任潘 永祥。罢免效果:成功。 



1月6日。内蒙古赤峰市松山区木头沟乡焦家营村。罢免对象:全体村委会干部。罢免效果:未知。  1月8日。山东省淄博市周村区青年路街道办事处桃园村。罢免对象:村委主任郭思忠。罢免效果:失败。 
3月20日。宁夏平罗县崇岗镇崇富村。罢免对象:村委主任、村会计、村妇女主任。罢免效果:成功。  3月27日。陕西省长安县祥峪乡东石村。罢免对象:村委主任周团结。罢免效果:未知。 
9 月24日。黑龙江省哈尔滨市道里区群力乡城西村。罢免对象:村委主任张雪荣。罢免效果:未知。  10月20日。浙江省台州市路桥区路桥街道新路村。罢免对象:村委主任郑云达。罢免效果:成功。 10月20日。海南省澄迈县金江镇万昌村。罢免对象: 村委主任陈德仁。罢免效果:未知。  
11月25日。山东省兴平市店张街道办事处尚志村。罢免对象:村委主任张文建。罢免性质:非法。  11月28日。广东省斗门县斗门区乾务镇虎山村。罢免对象:村党支部书记兼村委主任黄同志。罢免效果:局部成功。 


Anonymous said...

Very interesting post - thank you!
One correction: sure there are more than 66000 villages in China? I think 660000 is closer to reality; and this (as far as I know) is the number of villages with direct elections, not the number of all villages.

Sun Bin said...

thanks for the correction. i just googled it was already 680k in May 2005.

Anonymous said...

Here's the correction (not retraction, my bad) on the injuries Lu appearantly didn't suffer:


- bobby fletcher

Anonymous said...

sun-bin, I sent RFA your blog entry and looks like they gave it a pass:


"According to an incomplete chronology compiled by online pro-democracy activists, Chinese villagers launched 53 recall campaigns between March 1999 and December 2003, resulting in the removal of elected chiefs in 30 cases, a success rate of 60 percent."

Anonymous said...

i just read an excellent article on economic inequality and social protests in China. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China_Business/GJ20Cb01.html

Sun Bin said...

James, thx for the link.

Anon, thanks.
PRC distrusts RFA and VOA. So their impact is relatively small compared with MSM. They also prefer to focus on the 'bad news'.

As a matter of fact, I have not tried to verify all these cases myself. The MSM usually would not take words from an anonymous blogger like me. So a better source for them (or other MSM) would be the writer of the original report: Yang Yinbo (杨银波).

Sun Bin said...


There is a link from RFA to this post now.


Anonymous said...

Hi, would like to submit one more idea on the greater issues of election in China. Beyond impeachment there are the "regular" election cycle to replace elected officials. But of course that has it's imperfections as well. Take this example where village committee is outsted in subsquent re-election, but the books and seal are not turned over:


Also here's a presentation by Carnegie Endowment, IMHO a fairly balanced view on China's election progress and challanges:


Sun Bin said...

thanks. i have added the link to the text.

Anonymous said...

I think the people daily newspaper is the mouthpiece of the chinese regime. So becareful of the information you get from there.

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