China is waging a war against "village bullies and clansman gangs" to improve life in rural communities.
China's vast rural areas are often home to powerful families who have long behaved as tyrants, bullying neighbors, seizing public property and ignoring local legal systems.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) said Tuesday that it targeted the issue following a recent central guideline on residential communities, which promised "harmonious, green, civilized and shared" communities for both urban and rural residents within the next 10 years.
People-oriented development requires rule of law and a long-term system of "punishing the evil and eulogizing the good," according to MCA Vice Minister Gu Chaoxi.
"Regarding village bullies, it is important to be vigilant during the elections of village-level Communist Party of China (CPC) committees," Gu said. "Immoral people must be prevented from being named as candidates. All candidates should be clean, loyal to the law, serve the people and insist on fairness."
Gu vowed a relentless crackdown on village bullies and family forces that interfere with elections by threatening voters, offering bribes or causing havoc in voting stations, encouraging villagers to stand up for their rights and nurture civilized environments in their villages.
Gu called for the creation of village affairs supervision committees to supervise rural land use, demolitions, exploitation of resources, and prevent village thugs from embezzling public funds and infringing on villagers' interest.
"Party governance in urban and rural communities must be strengthened to resolve the corruption issues that directly affect the people," the guideline said.
In some places, village officials themselves have become the source of the problem.
Huang Naiguang, head of Yunzhong village in Minqing county, southeast China's Fujian Province, faked figures for land acquired by the government and swindled nearly 2 million yuan (290,000 U.S. dollars) from higher authorities as compensation from August 2015 to January 2016. He invited influential local families to harass local people, buy votes and even threatened villagers into voting for him. He also threatened other candidates and succeeded in getting re-elected. The investigation of Huang's affairs is ongoing.
Another Huang, Huang Wende, head of the Party committee of Shangbao village in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian Province, is accused of crimes, including embezzling the salaries of garbage collectors and other workers.
"At the beginning, I was scared as I knew it was illegal, but I got my nerve over time. I never realized that I had embezzled so much money," Huang said during a disciplinary inquiry.
"Supervision should be strengthened over village Party committees. Once members are found to be involved in mafia-like and immoral activities, they must be fired and punished," Gu said.
Apart from eliminating village hoodlums, the guideline also focuses on a sound natural environment, cultural facilities, peaceful people-to-people relations and happy residential communities.
Governance of both urban and rural communities will improve significantly by 2020 with public services, management and security assured by then, according to the guideline released by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council Monday.
Within another five to ten years, the communities will provide good housing for residents and strong support for the CPC at the grassroots level, it noted.
"The improvement will cover communities in both urban and rural areas, promoting coordinated development of cities and countries," said Chen Yueliang, head of the community building bureau of the MCA. "Urban community improvement will focus on consolidating and upgrading the existing facilities, while for rural communities, the major tasks are increasing public facilities, while improving governance and the community service system."