Longest-serving NPC deputy dies

Top News | Mandy Zheng 29 Jun 2020

Shen Jilan, the longest-serving lawmaker in China's top legislature, has died of illness. She was 90.

Shen, who passed away in her hometown of Changzhi, Shanxi province, in the early hours of yesterday, was the only deputy to the National People's Congress to serve at all of its 13 sessions.

She was known as the "yes woman" as she "never voted no" during her tenure as deputy.

Born in December 1929, she became a national lawmaker when she was 25 and was dubbed the NPC's "living fossil" and "evergreen" by mainland media.

In 2019, President Xi Jinping awarded Shen the Medal of the Republic, the highest state honor, alongside other recipients, including Nobel laureate chemist Tu Youyou and Yuan Longping, the country's "father of hybrid rice."

Shen was best known for being loyal to the Communist Party, once saying: "One will naturally become obedient to others if he or she is obedient to the party. We are most powerful together."

She caused controversy in 2010 when she said that "she had never voted no" at any NPC session.

"I've voted [yes] for things I support. For those I don't support, I choose not to vote," Shen told Beijing Times, a state-run newspaper, in 2011.

"If bad things happen in society, it's the fault of individuals rather than the [Communist Party]. How could so many things be done for the people without the party's leadership?" she added.

Originally a farmer hailing from a remote and mountainous village named Xigou, Shen became a member of the party at age 24 and was an advocate for women's labor rights.

A year after joining the party, she was elected as an NPC deputy in 1954 for creating "a huge influence by promoting 'equal pay for equal work' between men and women," according to the legislature's website.

Shen's advocacy for equal pay has been enshrined into the country's constitution.

She also made efforts to establish a direct train from Changzhi city to Beijing, improve the power supply in rural areas and protect farmlands.

Besides her role in the NPC, Shen worked as the director of the women's federation in Shanxi province from 1973 to 1983 before returning to Xigou village.

mandy.zheng@singtaonewscorp.com

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