Zhang Jinming, now Director of the Chinese Communist Party’s Organization Department of Ya’an City, Sichuan Province, implemented direct elections at local government level in 1998. It was the first year that this was piloted at a grassroots level. In August 2002 she piloted direct elections for the Party Congress representatives at a city and county level. She has been relentlessly promoting the democratization process in China.
Zhang Jinming is one of the pioneers in China’s local democratization process. The problems resulting from corruption and malpractices of local government officials have been the driving force behind her relentless efforts in promoting local democratization over the past years. In 1998 Jiming, then secretary of the Communist Party in Suining City, implemented direct elections at local government level. The legitimacy of such electoral practice at a grassroots level has been a very sensitive issue. Although it is well received by the local community, as well as local and foreign academics and researchers, Jinming has been under enormous pressure from her supervisors. “On legal grounds, what matters is whether we uphold legal principles and core values. The rules and regulations can and will change over time. In this sense, direct elections, in which power goes to the people, are in line with what is laid down in our constitution. We can even say that direct elections are more in line with our constitution than what we had before,” Jinming says. In 2002 Jinming, appointed standing committee member of the Party Committee and Director of Organizational work of Ya’an City, started to pilot direct elections of Party Congress representatives at a city and county level. Again, the pilots were proven to be successful. “This is only the first step of reform. We shall learn democracy by practicing democracy. Only when there is democracy in the Chinese Communist Party can China have democracy in the country as a whole,” Zhang says.