Can the Shenzhen New Model Residents’ Committee Prevent Domestic Violence?

Ye Yuyan

On October 24th 2018, while he was in Shenzhen, President Xi visited Beizhan community in the city’s Longhua District. He was very pleased to see what Longhua district had done to provide better services to residents.[1]

President Xi at Beizhan Community, Longhua District (photo ©Xinhua News

Even though the national Anti-Domestic Violence Law designates local residents’ committees as part of a broader system of organizations to prevent domestic violence[2], it does not specify how the committee can do the job. The Shenzhen model has demonstrated a possible way.

This article discusses how one district in Shenzhen has reformed its residents’ committees to be more efficient and professional in serving residents, along with its implications of how this reform can better serve the purposes of the Anti-Domestic Violence Law.

  • What is a typical residents’ committee like?

Residents’ committees were established in the Mao era, where they helped to maintain political order.[3] Since the reform and the opening-up policy, the government has reformed residents’ committees to take on more and more of the burden of administrative work.

That means the sub-district office of government, the community-level government, will  assign a typical residents’ committee administrative work.[4] Its routine work includes mandatory quota sales of saving bonds, and paperwork like collecting utility bills and fees from water usage to TV cables.[5]

The typical residents’ committee has come to be seen by local residents as ineffective and bureaucratic. The heavy workload leaves the staff very limited time and space to perform their constitutional duty as the “community-level autonomous organizations of the masses.”[6] Moreover, although residents have to interact with the staff for a wide range of affairs, residents also face difficulties in contacting the staff. As time has gone on, the residents have become less and less willing to talk to the staff, much less seek help from them.

But now, Longhua district in Shenzhen is demonstrating how this may be changed.

  • What is the Longhua model?

In June 2018, the Civil Affairs Bureau of Longhua District issued a regulatory document in Shenzhen to map out its residents’ committee’s range of duties, as a pilot project in Shenzhen.

The Longhua model is aiming at transforming the residents’ committee from a “lowest-level government” to a committee that focuses on providing professional services to facilitate residents in need.

  • Full-time staff and social workers to provide professional service.

The residents’ committee used to be understaffed and most staff worked part-time, which was inconvenient for the residents seeking help.[7] Under the Longhua model, there will be two full-time staff working in the residents’ committee to serve the community exclusively.[8]

The Longhua model also fully utilizes resources at hand. It creates a building for the Communist Party (Party) and Masses Service Center, to hold both the residential committee and the local Party Committee, so they work interactively on the same premises.[9] The Party Committee is the lowest-level organization of the Communist Party of China and has the “leading position” in Chinese society. Therefore, the Party Committee leads each Party and Masses Service Center in Longhua.[10]

Counting the three social workers working at the Party and Masses Service Center and one more social worker for the residents’ committee, there are four professional social workers who are meant to form a close connection with the community and provide professional services to the residents in need.[11] Specifically, the social workers have fifteen listed job requirements regarding family issues, including publicity and education of Marriage Law and domestic violence, forming female mutual aid organizations, and mitigating family problems.[12]

As the budget for residents’ committees is going to increase, the employment is also going to increase. For employment, the full-time staff would be paid from the sub-district office and the professional social worker would be paid by the civil affairs bureau.[13] Moreover, the civil affairs bureau also covers an 800,00 RMB annual budget for each residents’ committee.[14]

  • Free residents’ committees from those multifarious administrative work.

Longhua creates an exhaustive list (bian min qing dan便民清单)  of a residents’ committee’s duties. In the modern model, the resident committee would no longer receive assignments from the sub-district office. In case a government department demands assistance, it is required to apply to the Civil Affairs Bureau specifying its needs and supportive authorities.[15]

In the list, there are twenty-five categories, as supported by relevant law provisions or regulatory documents, that authorize the residents’ committees to perform certain duties, eight of which are direct responsibilities and seventeen others are ancillary responsibilities.[16]

Accordingly, the residents’ committees do not have to sell a mandatory quota of saving bonds nor collect fees of water usage,[17] though it is still charged with the certifications of financial status or family relationship.[18] Mostly, the residents’ committee would have more time to serve the community by organizing educational and recreational activities, resolving neighborhood disputes, carrying out population census and criminal or employment registration, etc.[19]

  • What has been assigned to residents’ committees?

There are seven Articles in the Anti Domestic Violence Law that authorize residents’ committees to prevent domestic violence.

There are seven Articles in the Anti Domestic Violence Law that authorize residents’ committees to prevent domestic violence.

Articles of Anti Domestic Violence law Condition Action
Article 13 Upon receipt of the complaints about or reports on domestic violence or requests for help against domestic violence provide help and handle the domestic violence
Article 14 When find persons with no or limited capacity for civil conduct are suffering or are suspected of suffering domestic violence Report to public security organs in a timely matter
Article 23 where the party concerned is unable to apply for personal safety protective order because he or she is a person with no or limited capacity for civil conduct or is coerced or threatened, apply on his or her behalf
Article 21 where the guardian commits domestic violence which has seriously infringed the lawful rights and interests of the ward may apply to the people’s court to disqualify the guardian
Article 32 When served with personal safety protective order from the people’s court Shall assist the people’s court to enforce the order
Article 17 upon being informed of the caution letter shall pay inspection visits to the perpetrators who have received caution letter and the victims and supervise the perpetrators to ensure that they no longer commit domestic violence
Article 22 when aware of domestic violence shall conduct law-related education for perpetrators committing domestic violence, and may provide psychological counseling for the perpetrators and victims.

From the Law we can tell that residents’ committees are expected to work in-depth, but specifically, how?

  • Can the Longhua model improve Anti-Domestic Violence Law enforcement?

There are two aspects which deserve further discussion, which provides an example not only for Shenzhen but also for all of China.

  • Professional social workers in every residents’ committee.

In Longhua, there are four professional social workers in each of the 108 residents’ committees with an average population around 20,000 to 30,000.[20] Although 4 for 20,000 is still far from adequate, more than 100,000 people were reported to have received professional services in 2017.[21]

Social workers’ professional assistance provides several significant benefits. To start with, we can see from the number that people are willing to seek help from social workers. Thanks to the social workers’ trustworthiness and professional knowledge, if domestic violence has been committed, we could expect the residents to seek social workers’ help. In that case, social workers could identify families with domestic violence issues and subsequently diagnose the root cause. This makes early intervention possible by persuading the perpetrator to stop the violence and allowing them to keep track of the progress.

Furthermore, social workers’ records could assist with law enforcement. The social worker’s records could even provide important evidence of domestic violence when early intervention has failed, which in collaboration with other evidence, largely relieves the victims of their burden of proof in court. [22] Moreover, social workers could report cases of serious violence to the public security organs. After receiving the reports, the security organs are required to keep the information confidential.[23]

  • More staff with more time

When the residents’ committee staff were mostly part-time and most of their time was occupied with administrative work, they had little time to reach out to the victims of domestic violence and even less time to track cases. With more full-time staff, and less administrative work, consistent and stringent enforcement of the Anti-Domestic Violence Law would finally be possible, and there will be a more coherent system for the society to work as a whole to prevent domestic violence.

The residents’ committee is legally obligated to follow up on families who had received caution letters from the police. Moreover, they are actually capable of doing this sort of follow up. When the police receive a domestic violence report which is not serious enough to implicate the Security Management Law, they can issue a caution letter to the perpetrator. After the police issue the caution letter, it has to be served to the residents’ committee.[24] The residents’ committee could then follow up by keeping a watchful eye on the perpetrator as they would be able to pay inspection visits to the perpetrators and monitor the situation to make sure that there would be no more violence.[25]

The residents’ committee could also apply for personal safety protective orders and apply to disqualify abusive guardians on behalf of disadvantaged family members.[26]This is not only valuable legal service but also a powerful message to the abuser on society and law’s zero tolerance of domestic violence and full support of victims.

With more resources available, the residents’ committee could arrange events for anti-domestic violence education. The social workers could have talked to introduce the proper ways of communication and what is domestic violence, and the staff could invite lawyers to come to the community to provide legal help.

  • Summary

With more human resources, even as few as four professional social workers and two full-time staff, along with an exhaustive list of duties, the Longhua Model had demonstrated what a modern residents’ committee could be like. Based on it, the residents’ committee, as the basic level organization, has the opportunity to form close connections with the residents and better facilitate their life.

The Anti Domestic Violence Law prescribes a joint endeavor to prevent and curb domestic violence, in which residents’ committee is a unique and crucial part.  The modern Longhua model has potential in how it could provide the professional services and effective enforcement necessary to fulfill the purposes of the Anti-Domestic Violence Law. It is time now for residents’ committees nationwide to redefine their roles and priorities.


[1] 习近平总书记在深圳龙华北站社区强调:社区工作要为居民提供精准化、精细化服务, 2018, http://www.sohu.com/a/271293410_487443

[2] Article 4, Anti Domestic Violence Law. Article 4 also designated relevant government departments, judicial branches, unions, social organizations, companies and institutions.

[3] Benjamin L. Read, Revitalizing the state’s Urban “nerve tips”, 163 The China Quarterly 806 (2000) https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/china-quarterly/article/revitalizing-the-states-urban-nerve-tips/719B651789BB5E0EA28935970DD02836

[4] 808, Id.

[5] 814, Id.

[6] Article 111, Constitution of People’s Republic of China.

Residents’ committees manage local public interest affairs, mediate local conflicts and assist to maintain public order.

[7] Discussions with Longhua District officials.

[8] Relevant government documents on file with the author.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Discussions with Longhua District officials.

[15] Relevant government documents on file with the author.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Relevant government documents on file with the author.

[21] Discussions with Longhua District officials.

[22] 未竟的反家暴之路 《反家暴法的实践难题》2018, https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/11s6QEdgOr0_iRaJQcwSWw

[23]  Article 13, Anti Domestic Violence Law

[24] Article 17, Id.

[25]Id.

[26] Article 21, 23, Id.

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