BEIJING, March 14 (Xinhua) -- Deputies to China's top legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), come from all walks of life, including many from grassroots positions.
Meet the migrant worker, the street sweeper, the lab technician and the cadre from a remote ethnic minority township. They all work with the system to steer policy changes that can have far-reaching effects on the lives of ordinary citizens.
WORKING FOR WORKERS
Zhu Xueqin is one of China's 282 million migrant workers. She works in Shanghai and has been an NPC deputy since 2008.
The first suggestion she submitted to the NPC was to include maternity insurance in the social security system.
"At the time, many pregnant migrant workers I knew skipped prenatal checkups because they had to pay the fees out of their own pocket," she said. "I felt their pain and helplessness."
Her suggestion led to research by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and, in 2013, the social security system was expanded.
After becoming an NPC deputy, Zhu became something of a celebrity among migrant workers in Shanghai. She kept receiving complaints from her peers about unpaid wages and persistently campaigned on their behalf. Then, in 2011, the NPC Standing Committee amended the Criminal Law to include punishment on intentional non-payment of wages. This is one achievement Zhu feels extremely proud of.
"I just want migrant workers to get their paychecks on time and preserve their dignity," she said.
Zhu has submitted more than 30 suggestions and one motion to the NPC.
From rural Anhui Province, Chen Laying, 50, came to the costal province of Zhejiang in the year 2000 looking for work. She has been a waitress in a hotel, a cleaner in a factory, and most recently a street sweeper.
Since becoming an NPC deputy in 2013, she has made it her task to raise awareness of the "garbage business," and campaigned for a better deal for sanitation workers.
Seeking out genuine problems, raising questions, and offering solutions are just some of the ways legislators fulfill their responsibilities.
All her suggestions, Chen said, were made together with her colleagues.
"I am not speaking for myself. I speak for all street cleaners."
Motions and suggestions are the key channels for deputies to influence state policies.
Since 2005, around 500 motions have been submitted by deputies to every annual session of the NPC. The 2016 session, for example, received around 460 motions, in addition to over 8,600 suggestions.
A CRUCIBLE OF IDEAS
Rizgul Kurakum works as a lab technician at a smelter in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Being a Uygur lawmaker, she concentrates on policies for ethnic minorities and for her region.
This year, she came with three suggestions. One about train services in Xinjiang, another about Xinjiang's beryllium resources and a third about copper.
She said she has found authorities to be quite efficient in handling her suggestions in the past. They give her feedback and ask if she is satisfied with the results.
"Being an NPC deputy is an honor which gives me a great sense of responsibility," she said. "I bring people's thoughts and needs to the session and hope I make a difference to our society."
COMING A LONG WAY
Padma Chodron is a township official from Tibet's Medog county. She is of the Monba ethnic group, one of the smallest ethnic groups in China.
Since elected to the NPC in 2013, she has submitted 10 suggestions concerning the development of her hometown.
With a complex terrain full of geological hazards, Medog was China's last unconnected county until 2013 when a highway opened.
"I have received feedback on all my suggestions," Padma said. "The Constitution authorizes us to be the masters of the country. It's a great honor for me to be here on behalf of my people."
China's system of the people's congress is designed to include people from various backgrounds and cover a good cross-section of society.
Of the nearly 3,000 deputies to the 12th NPC, about 14 percent are workers and farmers, up more than 5 percentage points from the previous NPC. The number of professionals rose by more than 1 percentage point.
More seats will be allocated to workers, farmers, professionals and women when the election of deputies to the 13th NPC are conducted before January 2018, according to a draft decision on the quota and election of deputies.