This year a number of lower positions in the government have been opened to direct elections by independent candidates. Guess how that’s going? As China Elections and Governance informs us… not great:
In an interview published on the Asia Weekly website on April 30, Li Fan, Director and Researcher at Beijing’s World and China Institute, estimated that tens of thousands of independent candidates and self-nominated candidates may spring up in this election. If Li is right, this election could be a game-changing experience for the Chinese people. It makes you wonder, how would the Chinese government react toward this phenomenon? Well, they already did.
Liu Ping, a 47-year-old retired worker from Xinyu, Jiangxi province, ran as an independent candidate in early May. (Jiangxi held the election early as a testing site for the whole nation.) Her experience with the local government has been a constant struggle. Throughout the three weeks of her campaign, Liu was closely monitored, harassed, and unlawfully detained by local police. The local authorities questioned her intentions for running and framed her as an ally of hostile domestic and foreign political forces. Liu suddenly became the ‘Enemy of the State’; her home was searched, her public speaking sessions interrupted and her campaign banners and flyers confiscated. Authorities went as far as to cut electricity at her home to prevent her from contacting the outside world. On May 19, local election authorities dropped Liu as an official candidate, stating that Liu did not meet the requirement of 10 supporters, even though Liu had more than 30,000 followers online. Currently, Liu continues to post her experiences on Weibo and has pledged to fight till the end. (More about Liu Ping’s experience)
It is reassuring to see that the mistreatment of Liu Ping did not scare away new candidates; all of the above 44 candidates mentioned above signed up to run after monitoring Liu’s case. Some had publicly supported Liu from the very beginning and claimed Liu’s action inspired them to run in this election. Liu has received the title “Rosa Parks of China” by bloggers.
It’s a brave thing to even try to run. We’ll see what the fallout is as the elections go on.