Around December during a dip into Inner Mongolia along the Great Walls I found myself begging around for water in a little village there. Some Hanzu farmers, with uncharacteristic niceness, invited me in for lunch. The above is the inside of their house, which consisted of three arched cave rooms cut into a loess hillside. On the wall around the sleeping platform they had the following cool posters:
These are apparently the illustrations from a little comic book-style booklet on village governance ordinances in Inner Mongolia. It seems like an unusual thing to make a comic book about and some of these drawings are actually surprisingly well done. (They have a nice color scheme, don’t they? And kind of an ’80s aesthetic, except trippily transplanted into rural, communist Inner Mongolia.) So I thought I’d translate the whole thing. There’s obviously a lot of gaps, as half of both posters were hidden; I suppose if you want to know more about Inner Mongolian village governance, you can go to there and find out more yourself. This goes along with my general interest in vernacular visual cultures of all types. For those of you who care about rural jurisdictional pyramids, I’m translating 村 and 嘎查 as “village”, 鄉 as “villageship”, 蘇木 as “arrow”, and 鎮 as “township”.
LEGAL CODE FOR THE ORGANIZATION OF VILLAGE COMMITTEES OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
I) In accordance with the “Legal Code for the Organization of Village Committees of the People’s Republic of China” and incorporating the realities of the [Inner Mongolian] Autonomous Region, the following methods will be used.
[The sign on the wall says, "The Village Committee"]
II) The village committee is the the base-level collective self-governing organization for the self governance, self education, and self service of the village people. It puts into motion democratic elections, democratic decision making, democratic governance, and democratic supervision.
[The sign on the gate says, "The People's Government of Bayan Sumu"]
III) The people’s governments at the arrow, villageship and township levels give guidance, support, and help to the work of the village committee of Gacha, but they cannot interfere with affairs that in accordance with the law fall within the realm of the self-governance of the village. The village committee will partner with the people’s governments at the arrow, villageship, and township levels in launching new projects.
IV) The village committee will be instituted in accordance with principles that are convenient for mass governance, and in accordance with the living situation of the people, their historical preferences, the size of the population, etc. The creation, dispersal, and jurisdictional adjustments of the village committee will be suggested by the people’s governments at the arrow, villageship, and township levels. After being discussed and agreed upon by a meeting of the village people, it will be reported to the people’s government at the arrow level in order to be approved.
V) The village committee is formed from the chairman, the vice-chairman, and three to seven members of the committee. These are chosen by direct election from the village people. The precise number of posts will be suggested by the arrow, villageship, and township level people’s governments in accordance with the specific situation of the village, and will be decided by discussion during a meeting of the people of village or a meeting of their representatives. Among the committee members of village, there should be a quota of an appropriate number of female candidates. If the village is inhabited by multiple nationalities, there should be committee members who belong to whichever nationalities represent a minority. Among the members of the committee, there should be none who are spouses or are close relatives. The chairman and vice chairman of the committee are not permitted to be in charge of the financial affairs of the village. Those who are spouses or close relatives of members of the village committee members are also not permitted to be in charge of financial affairs of the village.
VI) The village committee can establish subordinate committees in accordance with need. If the population of the village is small, the committee can also not establish subordinate committees, and just divide their work between the committee members.
VII) The village committee can, in accordance with the specific situation and the wishes of the villagers, divide up to form smaller groups. The leaders of these smaller groups will be decided by group meeting. The groups can launch projects under the direction of the village committee.
[The sign says, "The Main Responsibilities of the Village Committee".]
VIII) The village committee receives its responsibility from the assembly of the people of the village. The main tasks of this responsibility are as follows:
- To organize both herding and farming people to develop a multi-faceted economy. It has the task of serving and coordinating the production of the village.
- To protect the two-level system of using household contracts as a basis and simultaneously centralizing and decentralizing, in order to prevent the legal rights and benefits of collective economic groups, the village people, and other economic groups from being harmed.
- In accordance with the law, to manage, protect, and use in accordance with reason the land, prairie areas, mountain forests as well as the electrical, irrigation, and other facilities which collectively belong to the herders and farmers.
- To manage the financial affairs of the village.
- In accordance with the economic development needs of the villages and pastoral areas, to draw up and implement a building plan for the village, setting up public works and develoments to the general benefit in the agricultural fields and pastoral areas, as well as in forestry, irrigation, roads, electricity, communications, education, technology, culture, sports, and social security.
- To educate the people of the village to take care of public property, protect and improve the natural environment, and develop and make use of natural resources in accordance with the law and with reason.
- To propogate and implement the constitution, laws, regulations, and national policies. To educate and urge the village people to take part in payment of taxes, military service, volunteer education, and other tasks as defined by law, as well as to uphold the basic national policy on family planning.
- To develop cultural education and basic level technological knowledge, and to launch different forms of activities to develop civilized spirit.
- To mediate quarrels among the people, to promote family harmony, to encourage the unity of the village people and to promote the unity and mutual assistance of hamlets within the villageship.
- To mutually assist in acheiving a secure society, and to protect the normal order of production and life. To assist relevant agencies, and to educate, assist, and manage any members of the village who have been stripped of their political rights in accordance with the law.
- To convene the assembly of the people of the village and the assembly of the representatives of the village, to make work reports, and carry out their decisions and suggestions.
- To reflect the comments, needs, and advice of the village people to the sumu, villageship, and township level people’s governments. To guard the rights and interests of the village people in accordance with the law.
IX) When the village committee discusses and decides upon issues, it must fully carry out the democratic process, and support the principle of the minority serving the majority.
X) The committee members of the village committee are not required to separate themselves from production, and they can enjoy an appropriate subsidy for missed work.
[The sign says, "The Great Assembly of Villagers"]
XI) The village assembly is composed of all the members of the village who are over eighteen years of age.
XII) The village assembly is convened by the village committee. The assembly is headed by the chairman of the committee, or the chairman can entrust it to the vice-chairman. The assembly must be called at least once a year. It should be attended by at least half of the residents of the village over eighteen years of age, or representatives from at least two thirds of the families. All of its decisions must be agreed upon by over half of the assembly. If over one tenth of the villagers or over one half of the representatives of the village families make a proposal, then the village assembly should be called in a timely fashion.
XIII) The assembly of the village can decide by discussion the following matters:
- The assembly can elect, recall or by-elect members of the village committee. It can consider and make decisions upon the resignation of members of the committee.
- The assembly can hear and consider the work reports of the village committee, reports on financial income and expenditure. It can consider and make decisions on important affairs of the building projects in the village, economic and social development plans, annual plans, and related public affairs or public welfare works.
- The assembly can consider and make decisions on setting up collective economic projects, contractual cases, and contractual cases dealing with building public welfare works. The assembly can decide on the use of collective economic profits.
- The assembly can consider and make decisions on how to pay money to the arrow, villageship, and township level fundraising projects, as well as methods for deducting and retaining funds for the village use and raising money for public welfare works.
- The assembly can consider and make decisions on cases to do with contract management, the uses of compensation money for requisitioned lands, the allocation of land for building houses, and arrangements for meeting targets on family planning.
- The assembly can evaluate the work of the members of the village committee, as well as decide which village members can receive subsidies and the standard of the subsidy.
- With the precondition that it does not contradict the constitution, laws, regulations or policies, the assembly can create self-governing regulations, a village contract, or other regulatory systems.
- The assembly can alter or reverse inappropriate decisions of the the village committee.
- The assembly can alter or reverse inappropriate decisions of the the village representative assembly.
- The assembly can discuss and decide on other major issues that affect the common wellfare of the village.
XVII) The village committee should create a democratic financial management group organized out of the village people. The democratic financial management group will be composed of three to five people, elected out of the the village assembly or the village representative assembly. Members of the village committee, their spouses, and those directly related to them are not allowed to become members of the democratic financial management group. The democratic financial management group represents the masses at a fixed date to look up [...] financial items of account, and with respect to financial affairs publicly [...] to relevant organs of the people’s governments reflect financial [...]
[The text for this one is hidden. The board says, "Village Tasks Public Board", with two charts, "income situation" and "expenditure situation".]
[The sign says (I think, I don't read Mongol), "Olji Moron County People's Government"]
XLI) The results of the election of the village committee members will be reported by the newly elected members to the arrow, villageship, and township people’s governments to be put on record. If the people of the village have objections to the process or results of the elections, they can register a written appeal to the arrow, villageship, township level assemblies of people’s representatives or the people’s government, or to the arrow or county level standing committee of the assembly of people’s representatives and to relevent government bureaus. The relevant bureaus should take responsability for making an inquiry and dealing with the situation in accordance with the law.
[The paper says, "Request for Dismissal"]
XLII) The village assembly has the power to dismiss members of the village committee. One fifth or above of the voting-eligible population of the village can jointly sign their names to request that a member of the village committee be dismissed. The request for dismissal should be made in written form to the village committee, as well as filed in the records of the local arrow, villageship and township level people’s governments, explaining the reasons for the request for dismissal. The local people’s governments at the arrow, villageship, and township levels should undertake an investigation to determine whether or not the reasons for dismissal and the joint signatures are in accordance with the truth. The work of the investigation should be completed within three months.
XLIII) In response to a joint-signed request for dismissal made in accordance with laws and regulations, the village committee should convene an assembly of the village people within three months to vote on the issue. If the village committee does not convene the village assembly within the three month period, then the arrow, villageship, and township level people’s governments can convene the assembly and being the voting. The chairman of the committee will preside over the assembly for dismissing a member of the village committee. In the case that the villagers wish to dismiss the committee chairman or the majority of the members of the committee, the someone in charge from the arrow, villageship, or township level people’s governments can officiate.
XLIV) When the village assembly convenes to discuss the dismissal of a committee member, a representative of those who made the request for dismissal should make an explanation to the assembly and answer relevent questions. The person who is to be dismissed has the right to attend the assembly and to make objections in his own defence.
[The sign says: "Total number of voters: 458. Those in agreement with the dismissal: 346. This is over half; the dismissal is in effect."]
XLV) In order for a member of the village committee to be dismissed, over half of the population eligible to vote in the village must vote in favor. The voting and procedure will use the same methods for normal voting and procedure as outlined here. The results of the vote will be reported by the village committee to the arrow, villageship, and township level people’s governments.
[The piece of paper in the guy's hands says, "resignation".]
XLVI) If a member of the village committee requests to resign his post, he should submit his request in written form to the village committee. The committee should then convoke the village assembly or the village representative assembly and achieve more than half of the votes in favor. If a person is elected as a member of the village committee and his spouse or direct relative is also a member of the committee, the spouse or relative should then resign. If a member of the village committee in accordance with the law comes under investigation for responsibility in a criminal affair or is sentenced to labor reeducation, then his or her position will be accordingly terminated.
XLVII) If there are not enough members of the village committee, whether because not enough were voted upon, they were dismissed, resigned, were transferred away, their employment was terminated, they died, their residence permit was moved away, or a lack caused by any other reason, then a by-election should be held within three months. The election will be presided over by the chairman of the village committee. The election will use the election procedures and methods found here.
[The above is the inspirational calligraphy of Li Peng. It says, immortally, "Village Self Governance Is Good!"]