New China public poll measures performance linked
to promotion to help keep officials at their best behaviour

By Wu Jiao
China Daily

The central government is using a public poll for the first time to help assess the performance of officials and give people a greater say in deciding their promotions.

The National Bureau of Statistics, authorized by the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, began the popularity poll a few days ago.

The move comes amid intensified government efforts to root out corruption in officials' promotions.

About 80,000 employees of government departments, State units and enterprises will be asked to comment on the performance of officials. The interviewees will have to judge the fairness in officials' promotions.

The central leadership put the popularity index of governments and their officials in its recent blueprint on anti-corruption drive.

An Organization Department official told Xinhua that the survey was designed to feel the pulse of the public. The department notice makes it clear that the survey must be free of local governments' intervention.

Experts have hailed the move as a "landmark" step in involving the public to evaluate officials' performance.

"Officials used to be bothered only about their superiors. But now the survey will force them to pay more attention to the public," Wang Yukai, an expert with the National School of Administration, said.

The popularity poll comes at a time when tensions between officials and the public have intensified, he said.

On June 28, thousands of residents of Weng'an county in Guizhou province torched some government offices in protest against what they said was the local administration’s mishandling of a girl’s death.

The parents of the girl, Li Shufen, alleged that she had been raped and murdered, but postmortem results showed she drowned and that hers was a case of suicide.

"If such a survey mechanism had been in place earlier, Weng'an residents could have used their voice through proper channels and the riots would have been averted," Wang said.

Cheng Wenhao, associate professor at the School of Public Policy and Management in Tsinghua University, said the popularity poll is an institutional channel to gauge public opinion.

"The key factor lies in ensuring that the survey results serve as reference in the decision-making process," he said, and suggested the poll results be publicized to strengthen the role of supervision.

— July 15, 2008