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:


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.


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.


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]:



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.





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[…]


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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