Radio Free Asia
■ Authorities in the central Chinese province of Hunan have detained four people who campaigned for the election of an independent candidate to the local People’s Congress, rights activists said on Tuesday.
Guan Guilin, Yu Cheng, Zhang Shixiang, and Hu Shuangqing were taken away on Monday by state security police after they accompanied Guan to register as a candidate in forthcoming elections for the Qidong county People’s Congress, Hunan rights activist Ou Biaofeng told RFA.
“They were detained yesterday by state security police from Qidong county, who gave the reason for arrest as ‘disrupting an election’,” Ou said.
|Voters cast their ballots in a local election in China in a file
“Guan asked some of his friends from Hengyang to go with him to register, and all four of them were detained there,” he said, adding that another associate of Guan’s was visited by government officials in his home district of Shigu, and warned not to get involved with his bid for candidacy.
He said the four have been incommunicado since their detention.
“I tried calling them yesterday but nobody picked up, and this morning all of their phones were switched off,” Ou said. “Guan Guilin’s mother went down to the police station today, but they haven’t been released yet.”
China’s electoral guidelines state that candidates may put themselves forward if they receive recommendations from at least 10 local voters in direct elections to district and township level People’s Congresses.
But powerful vested interests mean that the majority of local “elections” are a fait accompli, while independent candidates are frequently targeted for persecution, harassment, and detention.
‘No such thing’
State media have previously warned that there is “no such thing” as a candidate independent of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Apart from a token group of “democratic parties” that never oppose or criticize the ruling party, opposition political parties are banned in China, and those who set them up are frequently handed lengthy jail terms.
Earlier this month, would-be independent candidate Yang Tingjian vowed to run in forthcoming elections to his local People’s Congress in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi, in spite of official threats and periods of detention.
And in the northern city of Tianjin, left-wing activist and independent election hopeful Wang Zhongxiang announced his intention to stand, in spite of being targeted by the authorities in previous elections.
“I started taking part in elections back in 2006, and then again in 2010 and 2012,” Wang told RFA. “I managed to get nominated twice, but I was never confirmed as a candidate at the election committee stage.”
“By the third time, I didn’t even get that far, because that time they refused to even give me a registration form,” he said. “We are supposed to make ourselves known to the election committee, but they wouldn’t tell me where the committee was located.”
“All the candidates are picked behind closed doors, and if you try to stand as an independent, they see that as a form of opposition,” Wang added.
Overall, there are five levels of hierarchy in the People’s Congress system, with the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing at the top.
Every three to five years, China “elects” more than two million lawmakers at the county and township levels across the country to local-level People’s Congresses in more than 2,000 counties and 30,000 townships.
Political activists have told RFA in previous interviews that local officials typically use intimidation and detention, tampering with physical ballot boxes, and paying for extra votes to maintain their grip on the outcome.
Reported by Wong Siu-san and Sing Man for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.