China: Where democracy lies

With the election of Beijing Communists to the Party‘s National People's Congress (NPC) having taken place this past Wednesday, here's but a handful of the thousands of follow-up blog posts containing words such as democracy, election, revolution and more:

“If I had the right to elect the deputies to the National People's Congress,” says Bokee blogger Ren Binju fresh back from the polls, I sure wouldn't have chosen any of them:

假如我有选举全国人大代表的权利,我一定多选几位像梁漱溟这样的人,即使毛主席对他”多关心关心农民”的提案大发雷霆,说他不懂”大仁政和小仁政之关系”的时候,他毅然决定找毛主席”当面争辩”,大有”据理力争,死而无憾”的英雄气概,他是”否定文革第一人”,中国缺少的就是这样的人大代表。

If I had the right to elect the deputies to the National People's Congress, I'd definitely choose more people like Liang Shuming, despite Chairman Mao's disagreement with his ‘care more, much more, for the peasants’. When Mao said Liang didn't know the difference between a ‘big benevolent government’ and a ‘small benevolent government’, without hesitation he decided to go find Chairman Mao for a face-to-face debate, to speak reason to him or die trying. So brave, he was the the first to disavow the revolution. What China lacks is this kind of NPC representative.

假如我有选举全国人大代表的权利,我一定会选”台湾的李敖”式的人,他敢质问台湾的”国防部长”李杰:”你像美国人的孙子,花钱买人家的破武器,你要不要脸?”他敢带催泪弹到议会,性急之时对政客大吵大闹,中国缺少的就是这样敢说真话、直话的全国人大代表。

If I had the right to elect the deputies to the NPC, I'd definitely choose people like Taiwan's Li Ao. He dared interrogate Taiwan's Minister of Defense Li Jie: “You're like the Sun-Tzu for Americans, spending money to buy others’ broken weapons. Don't you have any face?” He even brought tear gas into the legislature, yelling loudly at the politicians. What China lacks is NPC representatives like this, daring to speak the truth straight up.

假如我有选举全国人大代表的权利,我一定不会选行政长官做全国人大代表。全国人大就是监督行政当局的,而十届全国人大中,政府官员就占了 70%以上(这还不含国有企业和带政府背景的社会团体人员),怎么起监督政府的作用?全国人大代表缺少的就是真正来自社会低层、代表社会低层利益的人。

If I had the right to elect deputies to the NPC, I definitely would not choose administrative executives. The NPC's role is to oversee the executive authorities, yet in the Tenth NPC, government officers count for over seventy percent (not including those from state-owned enterprises and those from groups with governmental backgrounds). How can they act as overseers of the government? What the NPC lacks are people truly from the bottom layers of society, representing the interests of people at the bottom layers of society.

假如我有选举全国人大代表的权利,我一定不会选”惟命是从”式、只知道”鼓掌通过”的人担任人大代表,他必须要有胆识,对任何政府官员都敢说:”这件事,你必须要在周一前向我们解释一下”。全国人大代表中围着政府忙碌的人太多,过惯”上层人”生活的”阳春白雪”太多,少有耿直敢言的人。

If I had the right to elect deputies to the NPC, I definitely would not choose those “absolutely obedient” types, who only know how to applaud, as NPC reps. They must have the courage and knowledge to be able to say to any government officer, “this matter, you must explain to me within a week”. NPC reps bustling around the government, accustomed to the upper levels’ “highbrow” lifestyle are too many, the upright and outspoken too few.

假如我有选举全国人大代表的权利,我选的代表一定要一年来我和我周边的人身边一次,我们在社区、学校、机关、企事业单位、工厂、农田、医院、食堂、娱乐场所里,我们能很方便地把声音传递给他们,他们再帮我们到政府去呐喊;他们还要经常表达自己不同的政见,同时要向我们这些”贱民”汇报各阶段他们都为我们做了什么事,否则他就再也不会理所当然地成为人大代表。

If I had the right to elect deputies to the NPC, those I'd choose would have to come to the neighborhoods, schools, offices, companies, factories, farms, hospitals, cafeterias and entertainment venues of me and the people around me at least once a year. We'd quite conveniently bring voices to them, and they could help us go shouting to the government; they'd also have to express political views different to their own, at the same time report to us “untouchables” every stage of all the things they'd be doing for us, or else naturally they wouldn't be able to serve again as NPC reps.

假如我有选举全国人大代表的权利,我选的代表一定要行使一次否决权;一定要加强对政府预算的监督;一定要对中国的教育问题、房地产开发问题、医疗改革问题等等,提交一份广泛认可、切实可行的方案;一定要呼吁让政府提高对纳税人的尊重;一定要呼吁尽可能地减少民生的生活压力;一定要呼吁政府公开一切可以公开的行政事务;一定要让形成独立司法机制,首先要让法官先”清白”起来;一定要尽快修改本身”腐化无力”的反腐法律,彻底斩掉腐败分之手和贪婪欲望;一定要加强对每一部分法律的执行情况监督,不断修改,不断对《行政许可法》的实际效能、《行政诉讼法》”政府不能当被告的条例”作出评估和修改;一定要让政府在 “教育投入比例”和”新闻透明度”等世界排名上超过非洲国家。否则,他就再也不会理所当然地成为人大代表。

If I had the right to elect deputies to the NPC, the representatives I'd choose would have to use their right of veto at least once, would have to strengthen supervision of the government, would have to deal with China's education, real estate and health care reform problems, submitting a widely-approved and feasible proposal. They'd have to call upon the government to boost respect for taxpayers. They'd have to do their best to call for a decrease in people's life stress. They'd have to call on the government to open up all areas of administrative work that can be done openly. They have to allow for the formation of an independent judicial system, starting off by having judges “clean up”. They'd have to do their best to modify the decayed and impotent anti-corruption laws, completely chopping off the hands of corruption and greedy desire. They'd have to strenghten supervision of every part of the state of law enforcement, ceaselessly evaluating and amending the practical effectiveness of administrative licence law and the clauses in administrative litigation law which shield the government from being sued. They'd have to see the proportion of ‘government investment in education’ and ‘media transparency’ surpass that of African countries in world rankings. Or else naturally they wouldn't be able to serve again as NPC reps.

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Out with the old and in with the new is what Sina blogger and polling station volunteer Da Lihui would like to see, but didn't:

8号,我也挂了个”换届选举工作人员”的牌牌,在村里”忙活”着,任务就是在选完的选民证上盖个”已选”的章,然后让他们去会计处领十块”选举钱”(村里为鼓励村民选举出的措施),估计有80%的人是冲着这个来的,所以大家都很羡慕我的工作,因为我干得活是最受农民欢迎的,我不停的说着:”拿着选民证去门口领钱吧!”

On the eighth, I also put on a ‘election staff’ nametag, getting to work in the village, my task being to stamp voters’ voter certificates with a ‘cast’ after they'd made their vote, and then send them to accounting to collect their ten yuan ‘voter's money’ (steps taken in villages to encourage villagers to get out and vote). About eighty percent of people come out just for this, that's why everyone's so envious of my job, because the part I do gets the best reception from the peasants. I never stop saying, “take your voter certificate and go get your money!”

Cash money wasn't what brought KDNet Forum poster nkzxyzj out to vote, but it might have to be next time, given what she saw as a pointless vote in what Beijing authorities are passing off as elections these days:

地方人大选举何时不再走过场

When will local NPC elections not just be about going through the motions?

11 月8日,是北京市进行地方人大换届选举的日子。上午10时,本博和众多同事拿着早先下发的《选民证》,来到社区设在本单位的投票点,参加北京市地方人大换届选举。经过选民登记后,每人领到一张选票,上面有两个候选人,二选一,在同意的候选人姓名上方对应的栏里画圈,否则画叉。不出3分钟,本博履行完所有规定的投票程序,而被本博画圈的候选人是先前被告知的拟定人选。其实,选谁不选谁,真的让人感到很无所谓,因为候选人对选民而言是抽象得不能再抽象的概念,选民此前对候选人的有关情况,除了其姓名、职业外,概无所知。全然没有非常重要的候选人与选民之间交流的环节。在全市800万选民中,能有幸见到候选人者不知有几人。恐怕绝大多数选民与本博一样,到时来到投票站,名曰行使自己的选举权,在不知候选人是否能真正代表民意的情况下茫然地投票,实则走走过场而已。本博认为,这不但是对候选人和选民的不尊重,而且是对《选举法》的不尊重。人民代表选举本是一件非常严肃、庄严的事情,但因选举前期的铺垫工作出现偷空减料,难免使人产生走过场的感觉,而且这样的过场走了一年又一年,从20世纪走到了21世纪,几乎没有见到任何改进。

November 8 was the day Beijing held its local NPC end-of-term elections. At ten that morning, my colleagues and I took our earlier-obtained Voter Certificates and went to our workplace's neighborhood voting station to vote. After registering as voters, everyone took a ballot upon which were two candidates, with one to be chosen by drawing a circle or an ‘x’ in the box beside the name of the approved candidate. Within three minutes I had finished carrying out the specified voting procedures, and the candidate I chose was the one I had been told earlier would be selected. Actually, who to choose doesn't matter at all, because to the voters, candidates couldn't be more abstract a concept. Except for their name and profession, voters know nothing about the candidates prior to voting. There are absolutely no major opportunities for exchange between candidates and voters. Of all eight million voters in the city, I doubt there are more than a few lucky enough to even meet the candidates. I'm afraid that most voters are just like myself, coming to the voting station when they're supposed to, putting their so-called right to vote to use by ignorantly voting for candidates who may or may not be able to legitimately represent public opinion, in fact just going through the motions and nothing more. The way I see it, this is not only disrespect for the candidates and voters, but disrespect for electoral law as well. NPC elections are supposed to be an extremely solemn and dignified matter, but as shortcuts were taken in the pre-election work, voters inevitably got the feeling of merely going through the motions. Further, going through the motions like this year after year, since the twentieth century now into the twenty-first, there's been almost no improvements seen.

2004年10月 27日公布的修改后的《中华人民共和国全国人民代表大会和地方各级人民代表大会选举法》第三十三条规定:”选举委员会或者人民代表大会主席团应当向选民或者代表介绍代表候选人的情况。推荐代表候选人的政党、人民团体和选民、代表可以在选民小组或者代表小组会议上介绍所推荐的代表候选人的情况。选举委员会可以组织代表候选人与选民见面,回答选民的问题。但是,在选举日必须停止对代表候选人的介绍。”向选民介绍候选人的情况、组织代表候选人与选民见面是《选举法》规定的重要程序,也是候选人和选民的基本权利。可是,现在在操作过程中,这道重要的程序不是被轻描淡写,就是被人为地绕过去了,使法律赋予的候选人和选民的基本权利未得到应有的尊重。一个社区如此,可以想象,全市其他社区、单位也概莫如此。因为从市里到区里,从区里到街道,从街道到社区,都是一级管一级,底下想独出心裁也不敢。管中窥豹,北京市基层民主选举可见一斑。

Following adjustments, regulation number thirty-three of the electoral code for national and local NPC representatives for the People's Republic of China released on October 27, 2004 reads as follows: “the election committee or the chairman of the NPC ought to introduce details of representative candidates either to the voters or their representatives. Parties of nominated candidates, people's groups and voters and their representatives can introduce details of all candidates at meetings for either voters or representatives. The election committee can organize meetings and question-and-answer sessions between representative candidates and voters. However, on the day of the election, all introductions of representative candidates must stop.” Introducing candidates to voters and organizing candidates and voters to meet is an important process stipulated in electoral law; it's also the basic right of candidates and voters. However, in the current process, if this important procedure isn't mentioned casually, then it's deliberately overstepped, disrespecting the rights accorded to candidates and voters by law. If one neighborhood happens to be like this, you can imagine that neighborhoods and workplaces throughout the city can't be too far off. Because from the city down to the district, from the district to the street, from the street down to the neighborhood, all are levels of management on top of other levels. The ones on the bottom want to try new things, but they don't dare. From this, one can get a rough picture of a democratic election at the lower levels of Beijing city.

Is this a waste of my time? asks PhD student and Sina blogger Ignorant Youth:

11月8日,人民代表基层选举。很让我思考了一番,很巧的是,7日开始美国的中期选举也开始了。中国和美国在几乎同一个时间都在选举,虽然选举的名头不一样,但很让人思考。8日早上,我们研究生的班长在课间通知,下午到XX地点投票,每个同学都要去。当时很奇怪,因为这个候选人的展板是在外面挂了很长时间,宣传也很久了,但怎么是每个同学都去呢?至少我没有做选民登记呀,我不应该去呀,而且也没有消息说之前有过选民登记的,看美国的选举,先是提前做选民登记的,中国没有吗?

November 8, NPC grassroots elections. Really made me think for a while, how coincidental it is that America begins its mid-term elections on the 7th. China and America are holding elections almost at the same time, although the elections have different names, it really does make one think. On the morning of the eighth, the head of our class of PhD students informed us during class that that afternoon we would be going to xx to vote, and that every student must go. Strange, I thought at the time, because the candidate board had been hanging outside and the election publicized for a long time already, so how is it that every single student will be going? At least I didn't register to vote, so I shouldn't go, and there was no information before about any voter registration. You see American elections, all voters have to register beforehand, but not China?

选民登记:其实中国也有选民登记,但在基层的实施过程中就变味了,那个登记可以由基层中的上层老师、领导给你登记,在没有经过你同意的情况下。这就是中国民主选举的选民登记过程。

Voter registration: China actually does have voter registration, but at the basic level the process has changed. Registration can be done through teachers or administrators at levels higher than the level holding elections, without your permission. Such is the voter registration process in Chinese democratic elections.

选举:班长要求都要去,可能研究生要求轻一些。而本科生的要求是必须去,你不去,老师打电话,直到你来为止。开始我是不打算去的,因为自己去这个选举不感兴趣,而且对候选人很不了解,他们也没有出来公开做什么选举成功后的工作计划的演说,我没有理由去选他们。可是后来出于想支持班长工作,才去投票。我一直在想,选举应该是每个公民的权力,这个权力我可以放弃,也可以行使,可是为什么现在变成了义务了?这种义务尤其在本科学生那里很突出。记得我第一次行使这个权力的时候,我很高兴,因为我有了选举权了,但现在我没有这个兴致了,因为这个选举太形势化了,我去选举的直接授利人是负责选举的组织者们,他们可以向上汇报他们的选举率是多少多少,而不是我个人,更不是广大的老百姓们。所以我认为在没有准备好真正的选举的时候,请不要自欺欺人的做这种形势化的事情,劳民伤财。

The election: the class head requires everyone to go; maybe PhD students have it easier. But undergrad students are being forced to go. If you don't, the teacher will keep phoning you until you show up. At the beginning I didn't plan on going, because I'm not interested in voting in this election. That and I'm not familiar with the candidates; they haven't come out into the open to give any speeches of plans following an election victory, so I have no reason to go choose them. But then later I thought I ought to support the class head's work, so I went and voted. All along I was thinking, an election should be the right of every citizen; I can forfeit this right, but I could make use of it too. But why has it now become mandatory? This kind of obligation, especially for undergrads, is quite prominent. I remember my first time making use of this right. I was very happy, because I had the right to vote. But now I no longer have this interest. Because this election is too postured. By going to the election, the person directly benefitting from it is the organizer responsible for the election. They can report to their superiors how great their turnout numbers were; it's not me who benefits and it's definitely not the masses. That's why I feel that as long as there are no legitime elections being prepared, people shouldn't be bullied with this kind of posturing, a waste of time and money.

代表产生后:当这个代表产生后,大家选举的是一个真正能代表这个区域多数公民的利益的人,而不是去开大会举手的人,会举手的人太多了。而我们的代表产生后,至少我们没有看到代表定期向自己的选民们汇报他的工作情况,他有没有向自己所在的代表委员会提出有关于区域多数公民的问题,有没有提案,他能不能向委员会反映公民的问题等等。至少要让这个区域的公民们看到自己选的代表是可以代表自己的。这一点我到现在没有看到。代表好像是应该向选民负责的,他成为代表后,他是要服务于公民的,这一点我也没有看到。
可能我的知识太少,可能我的调查不足,只从我身边出发,现在的民主状态我很不满足。希望以后能够改善。

Creating representatives: When this representative was made, what people elected was a person to legitimately represent the interests of the many citizens in this region, not someone to go off to some meeting, there's already too many of those. But after our representative was made, we at least didn't see anything about a fixed time when he will report the status of his work to his own electorate. Did he raise any of his own constituents’ problems towards the representative committee? Did he make any proposals? Can he reflect citizens’ problems to the representative committee? etc. At least let this region's citizens see whether or not the representative they elected can represent himself. This I have not seen to this point. A representative is supposed to responsible to his voters; after he becomes a representative, he must serve citizens. This I also have yet to see. It could be that I'm lacking knowledge, or that my investigation is insufficient, but judging from what I see around me, I'm very unsatisfied with the current state of democracy. I just hope that it will improve over time.

And eeny, meeny, mynee, moe, says Sina blogger Crystal Garden, more concerned about why she was given a voting licence a year before the law says she should:

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11月8日,全民选举日,我觉得也是一个相当范围的”造假日”,没有任何意义!!!我在学校参加了人大代表选举,候选人有三个,两个都不认识,另一个我认识他,可他不认识我!瞎猫碰死耗子,我就是选了我不认识的那两个!苍天祝他们好运吧!!!

On November 8, the day everyone has to go vote, I guess it's a pretty classic “fake holiday”, it has no significance at all!!! At school I took part in the NPC representative election. There were three candidates; two I didn't know, but the third I did, although he doesn't know me! Like a blind cat bumping a mouse to death, I went and chose the two I didn't know! God grant them good luck!!!

选举证,到目前为止我活了21个年头了,就在这个 21的个位要变成2的时候,我才拿到人生中第一个选举证,由此也可见,中国这片国土对待这样一个本应拥有重大政治意义的活动是多么的不正规!什么公平?什么民主?什么行使自己的权利?统统虚假!!!

My voter's certificate. Til now I've lived a total of twenty-one years, and in just one more year I'll be eligible for my first ever voter's certificate. From this it can be seen that in China an activity which should be of monumental political import is actually quite irregular! What fairness? What democracy? What making use of one's own rights? Totally phony!!!

Ten reasons to reject democracy altogther from Bokee blogger Guo Youlong, who could just as likely be trying to find a way out of having to go through another one of these Chinese-style elections:

从孙中山、五四运动、共产党革命,人民为民主进行了百年的奋斗,无数革命先烈抛头颅洒热血为人民争取民主自由。革命胜利了,一些政治家说中国人的素质不高,不适合民主。民主是西方资本主义的东西,不适合中国的国情。实行民主就是反对党的领导,就会天下大乱。编制出种种反对民主的理由:

Since Sun Yat-sen, the May Fourth Movement, the Communist Revolution, since the people took up a hundred-year struggle for democracy, countless revolutionary martyrs have lost their heads and spilt their blood in fighting for democratic freedom for the people. The revolution was victorious, but some politicians say Chinese aren't refined enough, that they don't suit democracy. Democracy is the stuff of Western capitalism, it doesn't suit China's conditions. Implementing democracy is opposition to Party leadership, and would create chaos under heaven. I've worked out the various reasons to oppose democracy:

1、稳定论。稳定压倒一切,实行民主会造成天下大乱,国家分裂,比如苏联。

1. The Stability Theory. Suppress everything for stability; implementation of democracy would create chaos under heaven and divide the country, just like the Soviet Union.

2、发展论。发展为第一要务,实行民主会影响经济发展。

2. The Development Theory. Development is the first priority; implementation of democracy would influence economic development.

3、政治论。坚持党的领导,实行民主就是反对党的领导。

3. The Political Theory. Maintain the Party leadership; implementation of democracy is opposition to Party leadership.

4、素质论。中国人的素质低,实行民主会很糟。开明专制的政治家和官员,比民主人士更合适治理国家和人民。

4. The Refinement Theory. Chinese have low class, implementation of democracy would be very messy. Enlightened dictators and officials are more suited for governing the country and the people than democrats.

5、改革论。中国改革了,人民生活提高了,民主不能当饭吃。

5. The Reform Theory. China has reformed; people's lives have improved, democracy can't feed the hungry.

6、水土论。民主是西方资本主义国家的东西,不适合中国的国情。美国和西方是资本主义民主国家,中国是社会主义国家,中国不能实行西方资本主义民主。

6. Acclimatization Theory. Democracy is the stuff of Western capitalist countries, is not suitable for China's conditions. America and The West are capitalist democracies, China is a socialist country, China cannot implement Western capitalist democracy.

7、卖国论。民主会使中国受到美国和西方的控制,实行民主等于卖国。

7. Sellout Theory. Democracy will bring China under America and The West's control, implementing democracy amounts to selling out the nation.

8、金钱论。民主就是金钱政治、贿赂选举。民主选举花钱多,民主的成本高。

8. Currency Theory. Democracy is money politics, bribing elections. Democratic elections are a waste of money, the cost of democracy is high.

9、无用论。集权专制有利于经济发展,比如新加波。民主国家还不如中国,比如印度。

9. Useless Theory. Authoritarianism benefits economic development, like Singapore. Democratic countries don't compare to China, like India.

10、代表论。人民代表大会和人大代表代表了人民民主,还有”三个代表”重要思想,不需要什么民主。

10. Representation Theory. The National People's Congress and its deputies represent the people's democracy, as well as the key “Three Represents” ideology. No need for any democracy.

1 comment

  • mahathir_fan

    This whole episode reminds me of the Cultural REvolution.

    People at first complain that they cannot criticize the government and have no freedom of speech.

    So, Mao decided to change all that. He encouraged people to criticize the government, encouraged them to say whatever they wanted. Great debates were held where people free flowed their thoughts in public.

    Ordinary citizens could even drag government officials and academics out onto the streets to humiliate them if they had done wrong things. Great freedom right? Try dragging a government official and humiliate him in public today. You can’t. You think the freedom loving people would loved the cultural revolution right?

    Oh no…says the Chinese people. That’s too much freedom. Many were actually glad that the cultural revolution ended and the government began to restrict freedom to introduce order.

    People don’t like the cultural revolution because there was too much freedom. Now, people don’t like elections because they have too many choices.

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