The number of migrant worker deputies attending the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing has increased tenfold from just three last year to 31 deputies this year. However, that still represents little more than one percent of the total number of NPC deputies or about one deputy for every eight million migrant workers.
Many of the migrant worker deputies are now managers or entrepreneurs but their proposals and suggestions to this year’s NPC reflect their humble origins. Sun Donglin, for example, who is now the chairman of a construction company in Hubei, proposed that 31 December be formally designated as “Migrant Workers’ Rights Protection Day.” Sun became well-known after his brother, a labour contractor, was killed in a road accident delivering wages to his employees. Sun took over and made sure all of the workers got their salaries before the Lunar New Year holiday.
Former factory apprentice and now company shareholder, Wang Qinfeng, suggested that China reform its vocational education system, saying that high quality technicians are the cornerstone of a strong industrial country. Liu Zhongjun, a carpenter who lost four fingers in an accident, simply wished that all construction workers get paid on time. While a deputy from Guangdong called for free train rides for all during the four major Chinese holidays (National Day, Lunar New Year, Tomb Sweeping Day and Labour Day).
Other proposals originated not from the deputies own experiences but from the lobbying efforts of civil society organizations. One of the most impressive campaigns came from Love Save Pneumoconiosis, a nationwide volunteer group established to provide aid to migrant workers with pneumoconiosis, which gathered 813 signatures from pneumoconiosis victims in Hunan and Sichuan for an open letter to the NPC outlining suggestions on how to resolve the problem of providing long-term medical and welfare relief to migrant workers with pneumoconiosis.NPC deputy, Xie Zilong, the chairman of the Hunan-based LBX Pharmacy, agreed to submit their suggestions during the NPC session.
Official proposals to the NPC have to be signed by at least 30 deputies but individual suggestions can be directed to specific government bodies, which are then required to respond to those suggestions.
One deputy Wang Yi, who made several suggestions on environmental issues to the National Development and Reform Committee, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Ministry of Water Resources over the past five years, told the 21st Century Economic Herald:
I was neither very satisfied nor very unsatisfied with the responses from the government. Officials would tell me my suggestions are good but are difficult to put into effect due to practical restrictions, and as NPC deputy, I understand their situation.