WASHINGTON, July 20, 2001 - A half-century after the founding of the People's Republic, Chinese peasants are still living in grim poverty and struggling to pay steep taxes and fees imposed by all levels of government, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported in a groundbreaking five-part series on China's rural population. The entire series, reported by RFA?s Kou Tian Li, is available on RFA's Web site at www.rfa.org. It addresses government fees, taxes, and debts, grassroots corruption, village elections, rural to urban migration, and the effect on Chinese peasants of Beijing?s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). "Indifference to farmers is deeply rooted in the system," said one farmer from a suburb near Chengdu, in central China. "Chinese farmers need to pay taxes but they have no voice. They pay taxes, but they get no benefit from it." Economic prospects remain grim for most of the roughly 900 million Chinese who live in rural townships and villages, according to Chinese peasants and those who study rural life in the world's most populous country. Countless children are forced to leave school every year because their parents cannot afford tuition, even as the market price of their livestock and produce falls. Able-bodied peasants flee if they can to seek better paid work in China?s overcrowded cities. Future prospects for China's rural population are poor. WTO accession and "the trend toward marketization will pose a severe challenge to Chinese farmers," said Fred Cook, now retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Chinese farmers will find it very hard to adjust." Radio Free Asia is a private, nonprofit corporation broadcasting news and information to those countries in Asia where full, accurate, and timely news reports are unavailable. Created by Congress in 1996, RFA aims to deliver such news report - along with opinions and commentaries - and to provide a forum for a variety of voices and opinions. RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Laotian, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan, and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest journalistic standards and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content.

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