BEIJING, May 30 (Xinhua) -- China's central authorities issued a circular here Saturday urging candidates to practice fair play in direct elections of village heads amid complaints of bribery and other dirty tricks to win votes.
"The villagers' committee election work in some rural areas is not properly conducted as bribery situation is grave and seriously harms the impartiality of election," said the circular jointly issued by the General Office of the State Council and the General Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.
According to the circular, candidates' behaviors must be "strictly regulated". Punishment ranging from disqualification from election, removing current post to criminal penalty will be given to those who try to win votes from villagers with money, violence or intimidation and those who cheat in vote count.
Villagers have the rights to report any improper behaviors of the candidates and such reports should be investigated and managed immediately, the circular said.
"Currently, the country's rural areas are experiencing fresh reform and farmers' ideas are also undergoing deep changes," said the circular." Improving the work of election will help ensure villagers to practise their rights and develop grass-root democracy."
In addition, government organizations at provincial, city, county and township levels should set up special departments to regulate and guarantee the smooth run of village elections.
According to the circular, related organizations are also urged to "carefully" deal with post-election issues, such as auditing the work of former villagers' committees, ensuring former committee members' social welfare and even comforting candidates who lose.
A villagers' committee in China's countryside is a mass organization of self-management comprising local villagers, usually five members that manage village affairs.
China has introduced the practice of self-administration and direct elections at village levels since the Organic Law of Villagers' Committees was enacted in 1988.
The law, which sets out basic principles to ensure democracy at a local level, states that any villager aged 18 years or over has the right to vote or stand as a candidate.