The Incident of the Election of Deputies to the Peoples Congress in Shenzhen and Its Significance to the Electoral Reform of Deputies to the Peoples Congress at the Basic Level in China

作者:Li Fan 发表时间:2006-2-28

Shenzhen City launched an experimental project in the new term reelection of deputies to the people"s congress at the district level from March, 2003 till the end of May 15. In this election, in all, about 10 candidates not nominated by the people"s congress in advance participated in the election in various ways, and they launched an electoral contest with the formal candidates nominated by the people"s congress. On May 15, the polling day, two such candidates were elected as the deputies to the people"s congress by the voters via "voting someone else". The fulfillment of the voting does not mean the end of the incident. After the polling day, some voters participated in the election initiated some other campaigns, such as appealing to local people"s congress for the injustice emerged in the course of election, sending out "Letter of Recall" to request the cancellation of the newly-elected deputies, which extended the incident arisen from the election of deputies to the people"s congress in Shenzhen further to the legal procedure and the procedure governed by law. Up till now, the incident is still developing.

The emergence of the Incident aroused great concern from the domestic in various fields, and the major media throughout the country reported the Incident by a large margin and highly praised the voters" enthusiasm of positive participation in the election of deputies to the people"s congress, and some showed their delight in the competition triggered by the fact that votes elect candidates who were not originally on the recommendation list. Undoubtedly, the Incident has already become a noteworthy case in the development of China"s democracy. The emergence of the case has great significance to the electoral reform of the election of deputies to the people"s congress at the grassroots level in China.

The Phenomena and Causal Reasons of the Independent Election Unofficially Consulted Candidate

First, the emergence of the Incident in Shenzhen was caused by the experimental project since March. At that time, Xiao Youmei, a deputy to the People"s Congress of Shenzhen City and also an accountant of Finance Company of Shenzhen Nonferrous Metal registered by herself to participate in the election of the 12th constituancy in Luohu District where she lived in. In the election, the precinct, after negotiating again and again, decided to nominate three official candidates as the deputies to the people"s congress by higher authorities, among whom two were from the Planning and Territory Resource Office of Shenzhen City, one from a big unit such as the Party School of Shenzhen City. Xiao Youmei, via entering the election herself, was jointly recommended as the candidate by the residents in the precinct to participate in the election. There were two candidates from big units in the 12th constituancy, thus they got support from their units. Only Xiao Youmei was recommended by the retired and unemployed people. In order to be elected as a deputy to the people"s congress of the district, she began to publicize herself by printing posters and putting them up at her own expense in the residential blocks and governmental organs. Luohu District and the People"s Congress of Shenzhen City "decided" that the way of putting up electoral posters initiated by Xiao Youmei was not forbidden by law, thus they approved of her action. Though it met some trouble, some units once had torn her electoral posters, but in the end, her electoral posters were put up in the publicity columns of the Party School of Shenzhen City, the Planning and Territory Resource Office of Shenzhen City, the residential blocks of the Foreign Trade Bureau, and etc. The day of April 20 was the experimental polling day in the constituancy, and the polling results showed that Xiao Youmei lost the election because the ballots she got were not enough.

The constituancy where Xiao Youmei located was an experimental unit of the new term re-election of deputies to the people"s congress at the district level in the city. The decision made by the concerning organs on Xiao Youmei"s self-entering the election and self-publicizing caused very resounding response in Shenzhen and further in the whole country. Though Xiao Youmei lost the election, this kind of method caused the response from other places in Shenzhen, and some voters of Shenzhen began to imitate her method in the new term re-election of deputies to the people"s congress at the district level, despite the candidates nominated by higher authorities via official consultancy, entered the election of deputies to the people"s congress by themselves or via some other approaches, and they also put up electoral posters, lobbied in the voter"s house, established their own electoral teams, and to promote the election campaign. Because some people had enough time to run for the candidacy, they even ran for the election on the polling day; though others did not run for the election on the polling day, they chose to run for election in the constituancy where they stayed, or chose the way of "voting someone else" to directly elect the deputies to the people"s congress by the voters. In all, there were over ten voters imitated Xiao Youmei, if Xiao Youmei was included. Among the non-officially consulted candidates or the voters who directly entered the election, there were two people elected as deputies to the people"s congress of the district by the voters" direct election via "voting someone else". They were Wang Liang, headmaster and concurrently secretary of Shenzhen Senior Technical School, and Chen Caiqiong, an employed woman worker from Buji Town in Longgang District.

No matter what kind of reasons made these people come out to enter the election, even no matter what kind of reasons lead to the failure or victory of these unofficially consulted independent candidates, they dared to remove the resistance to run for the election, and indeed some persons won the election, which indicates that democratic consciousness of the public in China has already improved to some extent and the way of political participation is changing as well. In another aspect, it also indicates that in fact there are some institutional spaces for the political participation of the public in China to a certain degree. So long as the present electoral system is reformed and further developed, or following the way of making the judgment that if there is no law to ban the activity, it is legal in Xiao Youmei"s case by the people"s congresses of Shenzhen City and Luohu District, through which an institutional environment for positive and extensive democratic participation may be built.

The phenomenon of voters" independent running the election in the new term re-election of deputies to the people"s congress at the district level appeared in Shenzhen City was not accidental, which were promoted by a series of external and internal factors. Among these factors, the ones that are worth pointing out are as follows: first, the influence of the electoral development in the rural areas in the past decade. A lot of farmers entered the election campaign themselves and won the election by overwhelming ballots, which was not an accidental matter, but appeared on a large scale. The election in the countryside has already had such a great impact on various elections in the city that the urban people will initiate the farmers. The urban people not only can do as the farmers do, but also can do it even better; second, Shenzhen had ever seen the direct election in the larger urban communities. The year of 2002 was that of the new term re-election of urban communities in Shenzhen, in which the electoral reform on a larger scale was carried out in the range of the former villagers into the latter urban residents who had ever lived in the former rural areas. These places have used direct election different electoral measures from the other parts in Shenzhen with the number of places up to 260. The direct election in these urban areas has a certain impact on the residents of other areas in Shenzhen. Besides direct election, the reform of electoral system in some other communities in Shenzhen was also carried on in 2002, in which a batch of members of neighborhood committee were elected; third, comparatively speaking, Shenzhen is a zone of economically developed area, where the residents are not only of higher cultural qualities and educational competency, but also apt to accept novel things outside and their consciousness of participation is stronger as well because Shenzhen is a special economic zone, where people"s thoughts are relatively open; fourth, the local government of Shenzhen relatively has a reformative and innovative consciousness, apt to accept the new ideas and things. In the political reform before this, Shenzhen had implemented the electoral reform at the township level in Dapeng Town, the reform on the competition test regarding corresponding posts for the official at the district level also included. All these experiences had laid solid foundations for the Incident which took place in Shenzhen and those for carrying on democratic reform under possible conditions on a larger scale.

From the situation that the residents of Shenzhen participated in the election of deputies to the people"s congress at the district level on a large scale, though it was not the first one taking place in China, while comparing to the election of deputies to the people"s congress at the district level actively participated by university students in Beijing in 1980, and some farmers ran for deputies to the people"s congress at the township level in the mid and later periods of 1990s throughout the country and the example of Yao Lifa"s successful running for the deputy to the people"s congress at the county level.Whereas what took place in Shenzhen was widely different, quite a lot of entrepreneurs and white collars participated in the election, which indicates in the development of society, the enthusiasm and interest in politics have been aroused in the population of new middle class. The phenomenon is noteworthy, and it is also a further improvement in social and political reform. In addition, what more important is, the phenomenon appeared in the election of deputies to the people"s congress at the basic level in the past was a kind of individual behavior, thus, it did not arouse far-reaching response to the extensive request on the reform of election of deputies to the people"s congress at the basic level in the society. After the election in Shenzhen, this response has become a comprehensive request and discussion on the reform of electoral institutions regarding the election of deputies to the people"s congress at the basic level in Shenzhen and throughout the country.

The Significance of “Voting Someone Else” to the Electoral Reform

In the election conducted in Shenzhen"s, there were two examples that two (or maybe three) candidates without official consultancy became independent candidates and won in the election by way of “voting someone else”. As mentioned above, from the precedents once emerged in the history of China, the case was not new, but in the present situation the two successful examples by way of “voting someone else” in Shenzhen have great significance to the electoral reform of the election of deputies to the people"s congress at the basic level in China.

The example of Wang Liang, headmaster of Shenzhen Senior Technical School indicates that while the government divided the precincts by way of cutting up between administrative departments and regions, the school in which Wang Liang worked was entirely omitted, which resulted in the phenomenon that the right to vote and to be elected of a large quantities of people were deprived of. And there were a lot of unclear situations also happened in Chen Caiqiong"s case. It was reported that while Buji Town assigned the distribution of quota of deputies to the people"s congress not totally in accordance with the plan of the people"s congress of the district, but omitted the quota of employed workers and gave it to the cadres in the governmental organs and the Party. This method aroused the discontent of the people"s congress of the district, who requested Buji Town to correct the mistake, and to recover the quota to employed workers, then it caused no voters to register and Chen Caiqiong"s sending to the position of deputies to the people"s congress by way of “voting someone else”, though Chen Caiqiong was not considered to be a candidate at that time. Of course, some people will certainly put forward opinions about this matter. The coincidence emerged in these two cases were similar, but there was commonality too, and the problem lies in that while considering these two cases how people will think about the electoral reform of our present electoral institution of the people"s congress at the basic level.

The situation of the participation of the voters in Shenzhen into the election of people"s congress has already indicated that the enthusiasm of participating into political activities and expressing their own opinions of the people at the basic level has already been up to an extraordinarily high level. What the present situation should cope with is how to enable the electoral system in China to cooperate with such an enthusiasm, not only sustaining the participation enthusiasm of the masses and making the people"s congresses and governments at the basic level reflect the demand of the masses" opinion directly, but also keeping the political situation relatively stable, which put forward the institutional reform of election concerning the election of deputies to the people"s congress at the basic level, according to the cases of Wang Liang and Chen Caiqiong, it may not only encourage the residents at the grassroots level to actively run for the deputies to the people"s congress by way of “voting someone else”, which will promote the transition of the ecological environment of China"s democratic politics at the grassroots level, but also reform the present electoral system so as to enable more residents to participate in the election directly as a formal candidate through standard methods and regulations. This involves the reformation in several respects, which mainly includes the following viewpoints:

1. In the election of the people"s congress at the basic level, because it is by way of the direct election that the expansion of distributive quota of deputies lived in different areas could be considered, and the distributive quota of deputies from different organs could be reduced, therefore, in the election of deputies to the people"s congress at the basic level more exploitation of the method of free registration plus voters" joint signature in the communities, streets, individual businesses and private enterprises to make the people who can represent the interests of the residents participate in the election with the identity of official candidates. The reduction of the quota distributed to various organs does not mean to cancel the quota of deputies from these organs, and the reduced quota can still let the people represent the Party, political entities and large state-owned enterprise appear with the identity of representatives from different organs, and thus the consulted distribution of quota may be conducted.

2. Though, the way of "voting someone else" in election of deputies to the people"s congress in Shenzhen was a little progress, which also indicates that there are a lot of disadvantages in the election of deputies to the people"s congress at the basic level. The officially nominated candidates often became the result of mutual consultancy between the bureaucratic organs, which were created by a lot of "manipulation behind the scenes", thus the interests of these representatives they elected were identical to theirs but not those of the grassroots". Therefore, the mechanism of repeated consultancy over official deputies in certain cases may make it easy to become a privately conferred “black box”, which is a major institutional cause for the emergence of "voting someone else". The situation thus indicated that the candidates elected via repeated consultancy did not conform to the public demand. So what should be reformed is the institution of candidate"s nomination. In the electoral nomination institution, especially the mode of repeated consultancy practiced long in the quota distribution of deputies to the people"s congress at the basic level should be reformed; let the voters who want to participate in the election register the election, therefore the competition of different candidates is created, and the voters may select the candidates they favor therefrom. In such a reform, the electoral experience in rural and urban areas at the basic level can be exploited. As to the reform of nomination institution, the nomination mode of self-registration plus the support of several voters through joint signature should be used instead of decreasing and cancelling the present mode of letting the candidates selected by consultancy, in addition, appropriate qualifications for work experience and educational background may be added (or may be not considered), through which the candidates at the basic level can compete for each other directly. This practice aims to exploit the present direct election of residents" committee in the urban communities in the institution regarding the election of deputies to the people"s congress at the basic level and integrating the different democracies at the grassroots level, therefore, it will facilitate the healthy development of democracy at the basic level in China.

3. The division of constituancies in accordance with different places and the present division of residents" committee in the communities can be considered to be integrated in the election at the basic level. According to the particular situations in all parts of the country, for example, there may be one or more constituancies in a residents" committee, or a constituancy may include several small communities. Every constituancy may launch competitions with the relatively free candidates, then after a more standard election course, voting and ballot counting processes may produce the deputies to the people"s congress who can really represent public interest for the majority of people be elected so that they can forward the voices of the public to the people"s congress more correctly.

Thoughts over the Issues Emerged in the Incident

A lot of controversial issues were also emerged in the Incident. After the election, several candidates that participated in the election independently began to appeal to the people"s congress where they located, and some complained to the local court. But up till now, these candidates have not got any response from these organs or some even did not accept the case directly.

Among the 10 participated voters, the electoral case regarding Wu Haining, from Daomaling Community of Yuehai Street in Nanshan District, whose participation into the election initiated most disputes. So far, though the poll had been over, Wu Haining already failed the election; a series of controversial issues related with his participation in the election is very thought-provoking, which will probably influence the reform of long-term electoral institution of China. Wu Haining, an estate owner of Kaili Garden (a residential area) and a private entrepreneur, once led the residents to carry on a sit-down demonstration for the issue of the property ownership certificate until the problem was solved, therefore his participation into the election and winning the support of the residents" on the election of deputies to the people"s congress were natural. During his election campaign, he faced a lot of challenges, such as disputes over delaying the election due to the retreat of other candidates, re-registration of voters for the delayed election, the avoidance of multiple identities of a candidate who is also a member of the election committee concurrently, the votes counted exceeding the total number of ballots, and so on, all of which are the issues noteworthy in electoral procedure, involving whether the election itself broke the law and it was necessary to make a new start. After the voting was over, Wu Haining readout his six queries in the election process and acknowledged he would not accept the result. In the fixed five-day appealing period, Wu Haining sent his appealing letter to the People"s Congress of Nanshan Districts, but he did not get any response so far. After that, Wu Haining sent the appealing letter to the People"s Congress of Shenzhen, and he did not get any response at all, either. At the same time, the 33 supporters of Wu Haining sent a letter requesting recalling the representative qualification of Chen Huibin, the newly elected deputy to the People"s Congress of Nanshan District for his not being responsible for his work while serving as director of residents committee, therefore he was not qualified to serve as the deputy to the People"s Congress and thus called for cancelling his qualification as a deputy to the People"s Congress of Nanshan District. What followed that was these voters who drafted out the "letter of recall" got the pressures from some political forces, requiring them to cancel the letter, therefore some people withdrew because of that. While at the same time, Wu Haining planned to continue appealing on the issue existed in the election, requested to cancel this illegal election, repeal Chen Huibin"s qualification as a deputy to the people"s congress, and practice a re-election.

According to the situation emerged from the election, the issues that Wu Haining pointed out all had no fault, and this election was certainly full of doubts and problematic, therefore it was not a regular election. It was said that the opinion that while compared with the farmers" election this case was a failed election is correct. Thus, the matters initiated in this incident were not only a simple issue concerning the election of a certain deputy to the people"s congress, but also concerning the issue of how to set up a standard electoral procedure in the election of people"s congress at the basic level in urban areas, and a issue concerning how to promote and safeguard a fair, just and open election in the election of deputies to the people"s congresses at the basic level in China as well. The election of deputies to the people"s congress in the cities of China does not attract the citizens" attention in the past, and the reason lies in that the candidates are basically appointed by the higher authorities, and the voters just vote for them. Thus, the reform tide initiated in electoral institutions in the country and city in the development of democracy in China did not have an effect in the election of the people"s congress at the grassroots level in urban areas, therefore the effort of setting up standard electoral institutions at the grassroots level in rural and urban areas did not impact on the election of deputies to the people"s congress at the basic level. At present the Incident emerged in Shenzhen indicates that such an electoral process has already begun to influence the election of deputies to the people"s congress in urban areas, in other words, it is time for the election of deputies to the people"s congress at the basic level to reform, if it does not reform, it will be totally unable to adapt to process of democratic development in China, and then China"s democratic development will be dragged, which will certainly become a very serious problem.

The unfair, unjust and irregular procedures in the election course emerged from the Wu Haining case must be avoided in course of electoral reform beginning to enter the people"s congresses at the basic level in urban areas. In the development route experienced in the reform concerning the electoral institutions in villagers" committee in the country in 1987 and that in the urban communities in 1998, the key problem arisen from which is to overcome the defects in electoral institutions and establish electoral institutions from nonexistent to existent, from simple to complicated, from rough to a normally established one constantly. Under the aegis of Department of Civil Affairs and the people"s congress at various levels, a relatively standard working mode for elections in the countryside and urban communities has been created. In practice, this approach has been recognized by voters, local governments, experts and academia, as well as international electoral organizations. The electoral system can be applied not only in the election of villagers" committee in rural areas, that of the residents" committee in urban communities and governmental election of the township government, in fact but also that of deputies to the people"s congress at the basic level in urban areas as well. As far as the electoral situation of Wu Haining is concerned, the existing basic rules in the election at the basic level in rural and urban areas are not standard. Therefore, the problem is why we cannot employ the electoral institutions in the democratic development at the grassroots in China to redress the electoral issues that Wu Haining had faced? In other words, the election of deputies to the people"s congress in urban areas can absorb the beneficial elements from the existed electoral institutions at the basic level in China so as to improve the election of deputies to the people"s congress in urban areas, which is a shortcut adapting to the pace of China"s democratic development by perfecting the election of deputies to the people"s congress in urban areas and also a best choice. As to Wu Haining"s election, though it not only concerns the business between him and Chen Huibin from the surface, but also involves the issue of electoral reform of the people"s congress at the basic level in China, and that of the developing direction regarding the election of the people"s congress at the basic level in China as well.

Conclusion

The emergence of the Incident took place in Shenzhen indicates that regardless whether it is willing or unwilling, early or late, and whether the opportunity is ripe or unripe, the reform of the electoral system concerning deputy to the people"s congress at the basic level in China has already been on the agenda of China"s political structure reform, and the intensity that the political participation of the public has already gone on a new stage as well.

In 1987, the democracy at the grass-roots level in the country in China began to start; in 1998, the direct community election reform in Qingdao began to start the development of the urban democracy at the grassroots level; the incident regarding the election of deputies to the people"s congress at the basic level in Shenzhen emerged in 2003 might start the reform of the electoral system of the people"s congress at the basic level in the cities of China, and thus drive the further development of democracy at the basic level in China. If the Incident is considered from such a viewpoint, perhaps the path of sustainable development of democracy at the basic level in China can be found out. If the Incident took place in Shenzhen can really trigger the reform process of the institutional reform regarding the election of deputies to the people"s congress at the basic level in the near future via the efforts from various fields, the Incident emerged in Shenzhen at present will be of a historical significance.

In terms of the stories emerged in the course of the electoral reform concerning the election of deputies to the people"s congress at the basic level in Shenzhen, a significant problem needs paying more attention is how to establish a standard electoral institution on the initial stage of institutional reform concerning the election of the people"s congress at the basic level in China. Judging from the reform course of the rural election and urban community election, quite a lot of experience and lessons have been already accumulated; especially the lessons had already made the reform experience many detours in some aspects, which have influenced the process of the reform. Therefore, from the perspective of standardizing election mechanisms and establishing other regulations suitable for the reform, close attention shall be paid to institutionalizing election process and mechanisms. The issue emerged in the electoral reform in the election of deputies to the people"s congress at the basic level in Shenzhen is a typical sample that the old electoral institution can not adapt to the new situations and thus hinder the development of new things. That is also a lesson, which should arouse the attention from various fields. A standard electoral institution integrated with the world level should be considered to be established at the beginning of reform in the election of deputies to the people"s congress at the basic level, only through which may the institutional reform of election of deputies to the people"s congress at the basic level in China be promoted. That is a proper and rational method to comply with the changing situation, and an effective measure to guarantee China"s stability and development as well.

The essay first appeared in Background & Analyst (World and China Institute ed.) , No.52, June 23, 2003.