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China: Lawyers Back Candidates Barred From Recent Election

People across China continue [zh] to announce their candidacy in local district level People's Congress elections, but how far this new surge in civic consciousness can go remains uncertain.

The case of Liu Ping in Jiangxi province has drawn greater attention recently after Liu and fellow candidates Li Sihua and Wei Zhongping were prevented, through various means, from standing in their local election in Xinyu last month. In an addition to Liu Ping's account of how authorities are working to to block the trio's participation in elections, petitioner Li Sihua has also microblogged [zh] a bit more to the story:

6月16日,我分别致电致函省、市、区人大选举部门,陈述“关于根据全国人大的立法解释,应尽快依法确认我的初步代表候选人资格”的诉求。市、区强调:根据省人大的回复意见,不能跨选区推荐候选人。省人大选任联工委则说:既然全国人大有可以跨选区推荐的立法解释,就要我传真给他们。

On June 16, I made calls to the provincial, city and district People's Congress election departments and asked each of them for an urgent opinion regarding my eligibility as a preliminary candidate representative under National People's Congress legislation. Both the city and district offices emphasized that according to the provincial-level People's Congress, one cannot be nominated to be a candidate from a district other than that in which one is registered. I was told by the provincial People's Congress elections joint working committee, however, that the National People's Congress does allow for out-of-district nominations, and that I should take it up with them.

6月17日下午,省人大选任联工委电话回复我说,收到我的传真申诉意见及全国人大关于同一行政区选民可以跨选区推荐代表候选人的立法解释附件后,他们认真研究后向新余市人大批转了我的申诉书,要我与市人大联系。新余市人大选任联易主任则表示:收到了省人大的批转意见,一定会依法处理。

On the afternoon of June 17, the provincial People's Congress elections joint working committee called me back and said that they received my faxed appeal and, after a careful reading of my inquiry as to whether out-of-district candidate representative nominations are allowed for under existing National People's Congress legislation, they forwarded it to the Xinyu city People's Congress and told me to get in touch with them. Director Yi of the Xinyu city People's Congress elections said that he had received the approving legal interpretation from the provincial People's Congress and that it would be upheld accordingly.

6月17日,接到省人大的批转意见后,通洲办党委书记、政党提名候选人谢琪亲自出马,当即带人赶往西合村,调查所谓“推荐真相”,并找党、村干部及先进分子签名证明我参选的动因并非真心为村民土地维权,而是为了自己的申冤翻案。在他看来,是否只有当选成为人大代表,冤案才可平反昭雪?

On June 17, after the instructions from the provincial People's Congress had been received, Tongzhou Party Secretary and CCP-nominated candidate, Xie Qi, personally set out with several others over to Xihe Village, to investigate the so-called “truth” behind my “nomination”. He went and got some Party and village cadres and other political actors to sign a letter to prove that I had an ulterior motive—not of partaking in the election to fight for the land rights of the villagers, but rather to see my own case of injustice be overturned. In other words, is he saying that people can be exonerated from unjust charges only if they've been chosen as a People's Congress representative?

See the China Elections and Governance blog for details on how Liu, Li and Wei were beaten and treated by authorities prior to being disqualified from the election.

Late last month, Liu Ping's Hubei-based lawyer, Wu Yuanshu, went with her to Xinyu to investigate the handling of the election and Liu's subsequent treatment. Wu wrote [zh]:

7月4日
今天,我与刘萍、李思华前往李思华选区新余市渝水区通洲办事处西河管理处,观看张榜公布的的选举结果,并调查扭打刘萍、抢夺刘萍手机、殴打魏中平等破坏选举的情况。在被管理处门口,我和刘萍被管理处干部打伤,抢夺、毁坏我的手机、摄像机。

新余市公安局抱石路派出所盛晴晖(050618)斥责刘萍说:国家赋予我天天管你的权力,你没有权力管我,无权对我拍照。我反驳道:法律赋予我天天监督你的权力,你没有权力拒绝,我有权对你拍照。

July 4 – Today I went with Liu Ping and Li Sihua to the Tonzhou Xihe management office in Yushui, Li's electoral district in Xinyu city, to see the results of the election and see if we could get some answers about Liu Ping being roughed up and having her cellphone snatched from her, as well as interference with the election through the beating of Wei Zhongping. At the entrance to the management office, both Liu Ping and I were struck by office cadres there and my mobile phone and video camera were snatched and smashed.

Officer Sheng Qinghui (#050618) at the police station on Baoshiu Rd. told Liu Ping off, saying that the state gave him the authority to tell her what to do, and not vice-versa. He said we had no right to photograph him. I argued back that the law gives us the right to supervise your authority, that you don't have the right to refuse that, and I do have the right to take your photograph.

7月5日

昨天早上约八点半钟,我和刘萍、李思华一同去观看选举公告。刚到门前,还没看见公告,忽然六七人冲上来推搡殴打刘萍,我见状立即用手机拍照,那伙人就过来抢夺手机,我拼死反抗,被西河办事处干部和打手打伤,手机被抢去摔坏,几天来走访百余人的录音证据被毁,摄像机被抛上楼顶,案卷资料撒满一地。

在西河管理处办公室,那伙人说:你们没经我们同意拍照,侵犯了我们的肖像权。我反驳道:我不需要经你同意。警察说:你还是律师,知法犯法,你不经人家同意就拍照,就是侵犯肖像权。我说:侵犯肖像权是指用于商业目的,我是因他们打人,固定证据,难道是侵犯肖像权吗?

由于摄像机还在楼顶,我要求拍照取得证据,警察拒绝,因此我拒绝离开案发现场。无奈,警察方同意我们自行拍摄。我悄悄拍下了警察和警车……

July 5 – At around 8:30 yesterday morning, Liu Ping, Li Sihua and I went to see the election results. As we reached the door, before we'd seen the results, those guys came over to snatch away my cellphone. I resisted like hell and was hurt by the Xihe office cadres, and my cellphone got smashed up in the process. Also destroyed were the audio recordings from hundreds of locals there. The video camera got thrown up on the roof and the case papers were strewn all over the ground.

Inside the Xihe office, those guys said that we didn't have their permission to take their photos, that we violated their portrait rights. I said I didn't need their permission. One office said, you're lawyers, and you knowingly break the law? If you take someone's photo without their permission, he said, you're violating their portrait rights. Violation of portrait rights refers to commercial law, I said: Given that you've hit us and this is hard evidence of that, are you seriously saying that we're violating your portrait rights?

With the video camera still up on the roof, I demanded we be able to take photos as evidence. The officer refused, and so I refused to leave. The officer gave up and let us take our photos, so I took photos of the officers and their cars[…]

打的到新余,路上闲聊,我问:知道刘萍吗?司机答:不知道。我说:全国都知道刘萍参选人民代表,新余人不知道么?司机想一会说:哦,听说过,听说她是恐怖分子,选举那天要炸新余最大的商场,街上布满武警。我大惊。来新余三天,果真听到恐怖的故事。

I took a taxi back to Xinyu and chatted with the driver on the way. I asked if he'd heard of Liu Ping. The driver said he hadn't. I said the whole country knows Liu Ping, a candidate to be a People's Congress representative, how could you not know? He thought for a minute, then said: oh right, I hear about her, a terrorist or something, wanted to blow up Xinyu's biggest shopping mall on the day of the election. The streets were full of armed police. I was stunned. Three days in Xinyu and I'm already hearing stories about terrorists.

After returning to Hubei on July 5, Wu wrote on his Weibo account that he would push the local Ministry of Justice to launch an official investigation, but also that he, along with Guangdong-based lawyer Li Zhiming and Zhejiang lawyer Wang Cheng, were seeking to gather other lawyers to travel to Xinyu and offer assistance to the three former candidates.

Then, Wu was called out for tea the following day, and told [zh] to cease his efforts to organize lawyers to investigate the People's Congress election held recently in Xinyu. A Weibo group for that purpose set up by electoral democracy enthusiast and Wu's fellow lawyer, Wang Cheng, however, remains active.

Meanwhile, some Chinese media continue to write about the growing interest in district-level legislative elections: Caijing recently published two well-circulated pieces, ‘The difficult question of whether independent candidates are able to resolve social tensions‘ and ‘Perspective on the citizen candidate trend‘.

Also worth a read is this lengthy article from The World and China Institute‘s Chinese electoral system reform research group, Everywhere, independent candidates to be People's Congress representatives eagerly appearNew Trend of Chinese Citizens Running for Local People’s Congress‘.

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