The spokesperson for the Commission on Legislative Affairs of the National People’s Congress stated [zh] on June 8 2011 that no legal basis exists for independent candidacy in grassroots people's congress elections.
To be a candidate in grassroots representative elections, he said, one has to first be endorsed by a political party or a people's organization in order to become an “independent candidate”. The statement is a blow to the grassroots “independent candidate” movement triggered by Liu Ping's candidacy announced in May 2011.
A Chinese Communist Party (CCP)'s internal newspaper, Study Times [zh], however, then published a commentary which argued that “independent candidacy” is legal as “the right to be nominated” is protected by the Chinese Constitution. It looked at speculation that an internal conflict exists between top leaders of the CCP and in government over the opening up of grassroots democracy.
The General Election of grassroots representatives for the People's Congress at both the county and township level is taking place from now until the end of 2012. More than two million people's representatives will be elected in the two elections, affecting more than 2,000 county level governments and more than 30,000 township level governments. Chinese-language news site Boxun quotes a source [zh] who states that there were more than 127 registered independent candidates by June 7, 2011.
Despite the fact that the number of independent candidates is tiny in comparison to the total of more than 2 million contested seats, the authorities have been hard-handed in suppressing spontaneous participation in the grassroots elections.
Cao Tian, a real estate businessman, author and former 1989 political prisoner, has announced in his blog that he will run for mayor of Zhengzhou. Soon after his announcement was made, he was threatened by a local official that “the first bird that takes wing is the first bird to get shot”.
China Digital Times has translated his post:
Official: You’re going to run into serious problems if you try to pull this one off. Can you guarantee that your company, or your family have not made any mistakes?! Pretty soon you’re going to find out just how many eyes Ma Wang Ye [Note: a Taoist dieity that has three eyes. Here it refers to the CCP] has!
Cao: I learned twenty years ago just how many eyes Ma Wang Ye has. I know even more about Yan Wang’s search for minions. But there is one thing that I still want. It’s what the Mafei county chief said in the movie “ Let the Bullets Fly.” He said that his government was there in Echeng to ensure three things: fairness, fairness and f**king fairness.
Official: You want fairness do you? That’s the same as saying you want to be in handcuffs! Didn’t you watch the news yesterday? The Commission on Legislative Affairs of the National People’s Congress has already said that you so-called independent candidates lack a legal ground [for running for office]. The subtext is that you guys are causing trouble for the government so the laws aren’t going to be used to protect you.
Official: What you say might make sense, but the reality is quite different. The first bird that takes wing is the first bird to get shot. You, yourself are someone with status; there is no need for you to be the martyr. Do you think history will stop progressing without you taking the lead?
Beijing Human Rights Activist and former independent people's congress representative to Beijing, Xu Zhiyong, has also confirmed [zh] the crackdown on independent candidates, via his Twitter on June 18:
A number of the high-profile independent candidates have been subjected to political harassment. Cao Tian, for one, was forced to leave Zhengzhou a week after he announced his intention to compete for the mayor.
Sina Weibo user Heaven blesses China A commented [zh] on June 17:
Independent candidate from Jiangxi, Li Sihua, was charged with signature forgery. The authority said that among the more than 200 signatures in Li's nomination form, 5 of them were forged. Although it takes only 20 signatures to qualify as a candidate, Li's candidacy has been voided as a result of the charge. Li explained [zh] the situation through his Weibo account:
Weibo user wuxinkuaiyu reminded [zh] all independent candidates to protect themselves:
In spite of all the political harassment, many netizens continue to step out and participate in the grassroots election. CHRD has been keeping track of the candidate list with the tag ‘grassroots election‘ [zh].