“China’s independents find it hard to get on ballot”

The wave of independent candidates has been pretty completely crushed by now- the Communist Party has done whatever it needed to destroy their campaigns. Via LA Times:

At least on paper, the Chinese Constitution permits any adult citizen without a criminal record to run for the office of people’s representative. In practice, however, those without the blessing of the Communist Party say they are thwarted at every pass: harassed, detained, followed and threatened. If that fails, they say, they’re simply kicked off the ballots.

Although a few independent candidates have won, they tend to refrain from criticizing the government openly and avoid campaigning, especially on the Internet. Activists, however, draw immediate scrutiny from a government that tends to not brook dissent.

“The independent candidates could destroy the current system by soliciting votes on the Internet,” the party-run Global Times newspaper warned in May as the campaign season was opening. “Instead of pushing forward political development, the deviation is likely to create political risks in society.”

The positions of people’s representatives are not terribly elite: 4,349 seats for district or county level representatives are up for grabs in Beijing alone, and nearly 2 million nationwide in elections staggered over the course of the year. None of them are picked for the National People’s Congress, the country’s rubber-stamp legislature. For the most part, the job involves mundane matters such as recycling and pooper-scooper rules for pets.

Guo Huojia, a 60-year-old farmer from Foshan, in Guangdong province, is one of the few independents to win an election. Campaigning against land confiscations and home demolitions, he received a stunning 7,000 out of 9,000 votes in his district in a Sept. 28 vote.

He was arrested the following day. He remains under house arrest.

A Shanghai writer dropped his plans to run after being hit by a tax audit. A real estate mogul who wanted to run for mayor of Zhengzhou says he was so harassed by tax authorities that he went into hiding and left politics behind.

“What they hate about independent candidates is that they reveal the true nature of the system,” said Xue Mengchun, a businessman who has been advising Han Ying on her campaign. “It is all about ‘face.’ The Chinese government is trying to show the world they have democracy.”

There is almost no coverage of the elections in the Chinese media, and you would hardly know they are going on except for red propaganda banners strung around town reading, “People choose the people’s delegates. The people’s delegates work for the people.”

The reality is that candidates mostly have been either Communist Party members or people handpicked by the party. Li Sihua, a former schoolteacher from Jiangxi province, said that when he went to sign up as a candidate in May, officials of the local election committee refused to give him the form.

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Filed under activism, Communist Party, democracy, independent candidates

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