New Trend of Chinese Citizens Running for Local People’s Congress

作者:Jiang Xun 发表时间:2011-7-5 11:35:26

The local People’s Congress (LPC) general election will kick off in July across China. Writer Li Chengpeng announced on Sina Weibo that he nominated himself to run and was supported by over a million fans. His campaign consultants include Yu Jianrong, Feng Xiogang, and Han Han. Many online intellectuals also enter the election. The public does not want a representative assigned to them. It has been estimated that over a million self-nominated candidates will emerge, bringing a new dynamic to Chinese politics.

Dubbed as a Weibo Guru, writer Li Chengpeng announced on Weibo on May 25 that he will run for LPC. Since then, a wave of “self-nominated candidates for LPC” swept across the country society, and drawing strong attention and wide discussion. According to some statistics, on Sina’s Weibo at least nine people declared as self-nominated candidates on May 26, 18 people declared on May 27, at least 31 people declared on May 28, and on May 29 nearly 100 people declared themselves candidates for LPC elections according to the laws required. Two months ago, longtime Chinese election expert and World and China Institute (WCI) director, Li Fan, made a prediction in an interview with Yazhouzhoukan that, “The number of independent candidates from the new round of LPC election will be more than 10 times in number than the previous round, close to a million people.” The prediction will probably come true. Self-nominated candidates for LPC elections, if they get elected and incorporated into the legislature, could create a huge force for political reform.

Internet celebrities running

Many well-known and ordinary people have announced their candidacy on Weibo recently including: Liang Shuxin, Chief Operation Officer of Tianya.cn; Xia Shang (aka Xia Wenyu) of the Chinese Writers’ Association; Wu Danhong, Associate Professor of China University of Political Science and Law; Yao Bo, Assistant to Editor-in-chief of the English China Daily; Xiong Wei, founder of Beijing New Enlightenment Center; Xu Yan and Liang Yongchun, ordinary residents of Hangzhou; and Lin Bin, a Fuzhou resident. There are bloggers and internet users from all over Changzhou, Jiangsu; Changxing county of Zhejiang; and Wuhan of Hubei claiming they will run for their LPC. Liu Ruoxi, a barely 18- year-old of Futian District of Shenzhen, Guangdong also said he will run. He said on Weibo, “I will be 18 years old in less than two weeks’ time (note: This round of LPC election will begin in July all around the country), I have asked for my parents’ permission and I have decided to run.” Candidates are seeking joint nominations of voters. According to election law for NPC and local congresses, a joint nomination by a group of ten or above voters can qualify a candidate to run in the election.

“Choosing me is choosing yourself” is Li Chengpeng’s campaign slogan. Nicknamed Big Eyes Li, he is registered on Weibo as a commentator and writer. His blog on Weibo is immensely popular with over 2.9 million fans. On May 25, he announced on Weibo that “I will formally enter the election running for LPC in Chengdu where my residency lies. I will organize a team of campaign staff and strictly follow the relevant rules and regulations required by the Chinese constitution. I shared with you my desire to run for LPC on Weibo last year. I am officially running now after careful consideration. I am a lawful citizen and I am not under manipulation by any parties. I would like to represent my constituents, to voice their lawful expectations and to monitor the government and to advance society. I sincerely ask all of you to give me guidance on how to run in this election. Those who agree please raise up your hands…” At 8 o’clock that night, his Weibo message had been reposted nearly 3,000 times and there were more than 2,700 comments.

At 10:30 in the morning on May 25 in Shenzhen, Guangdong, Li was still drowsy after watching an overnight UEFA soccer game. He was visiting Shenzhen from Chengdu, Sichuan to attend a book signing event for his latest novel, Le Kele Protests Demolition. He was fully-roused when this Yazhouzhoukan reporter called him about his election bid. He said, “I started feeling a bit lonely after my confirmation to run, but in less than a day or two, a few dozen independent candidates came forward. So it seems that many people think the same way I do. It’s like it’s so stuffy inside the house and I accidentally bumped open a citizen’s window and let in a breeze of fresh air for everybody. So other people followed suit and opened some windows too. For that I felt proud.” “It’s a small step for me personally but a big step for Chinese citizens. I hope there will be more people like Li Chengpeng and Xia Shang and our country will be able to become genuinely strong and wise.”

Li said, “Even though we are Chinese citizens, ballot paper is unfamiliar to us. I have seen real ballot paper before. I was in college then, and I saw a piece of ballot paper together with meal tickets. That afternoon, the sun was blindingly bright, I was playing mahjong with a few classmates and we were betting on meal tickets. One guy, Laoda, was cleaned out, and when he paid, a roll of tickets accidentally fell out. Only then did he remember the wrinkly ballot paper he’d been carrying around with him for days. The ballot paper looked like a meal ticket, except there wasn’t the blue triangular chop of the cafeteria but a big red round chop. We didn’t really care about the ballot paper. We only took a good look at it after the game finished. There were two candidates on it, one was the Chancellor and the other was an officer from the party committee office. We wondered at such novelty. We have only seen two names on notices relating to student disciplinary action on the school’s bulletin board, we didn’t know their faces. And then we played another game of mahjong, whoever won got to decide whom to vote for. I won, so I decided to choose the Chancellor simply because he’s the one who signed our diplomas.”

Ballot paper is the most important meal ticket

Li Chengpeng said he’s not a very good voter. Later, he realized that the ballot paper was the most important meal ticket. In life, there is no “meal ticket” more important than individual rights and the ballot paper. One day near the end of 2010, he wrote on Weibo, “I want to run for LPC.” When Pan Shiyi, chairman of SOHO China, saw this election message on Weibo, he immediately texted back on Weibo how he thought Li could run. That particular message became so popular it was reposted over 8,000 times. However, that Weibo message was soon censored.

Li said, “My personality is mild. I only have ideas about how people should live their daily lives but have no political inclinations. In terms of world affairs and bread and butter issues, we only care about how we can pay the bills. I am merely executing a very simple wish of citizens. The problem is, the administration can’t even stand this and things like the Liu Ping Incident made me think more seriously. Even scholars like Yu Jianrong of the China Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) encouraged me to run. I wanted to be low-key, I thought it would be safer and would help things to run more smoothly. I didn’t want to face “Chinese-style” pressure. I waited for a good timing to announce my election bid, but Yu Jianrong spilled the beans, I had no choice but to admit it publicly.”

He said, “To be elected is a ‘weapon’ bestowed to us by the country. I am not familiar with rules and regulations such as the Election Law. I am learning about the Constitution and NPC Election Law and only then I start to realize we have many rights. I want to put things into practice, to see whether I could become a good enough LPC delegate. I used to be a reporter and now I am a writer, it’s fair to say I have a good understanding of the grassroots. I am actually like a spokesperson. The public has so much that they want to say but they are frustrated because they can’t find the right platform to do so. ”

Han Han willing to campaign

The story had it that after Li set out his campaign platform, his goal was “to win”. His campaign team now consists of scholars, lawyers and cultural celebrities who work as consultants, among them, scholar Yu Jianrong, movie director Feng Xiaogang and writer Han Han.

Li will be running in the constituency of Wuhou District of Chengdu. It is a community of intellectuals and white collar workers. He is committed to listening to the requests of the residents and to better communicate with the government. His main issues cover healthcare, education, agriculture, and others. For example, in terms of agriculture, farmers grow fruit and vegetables and sell them at a low price but such products are sold at a high price when they reach the supermarkets, so the government should play some role in cutting down the number of middlemen. He has detailed proposals for the government about many issues. He said, “It is a huge undertaking. I want to speak on behalf of the people. We are trying to advance society and popularize civilization. We not only monitor government, more importantly, we are trying to help the government to enable voters and residents to enjoy better quality of life and enjoy their lawful political rights. The government and the people should not be against each other. Weibo can be used to better communicate with voters. I can be better monitored by the voters. This matter is not a Pandora’s Box, it’s only because of some special historic factors that things are a bit antsy now. So far, there been no ‘we need to talk,’ no one has put any pressure on me.”

WCI director Li Fan was invited to fly to Taipei from Beijing to attend an academic event. When Yazhouzhoukan interviewed him on May 29, he said that LPC general elections would start all across China in July but things are already heating up now. Yushui District of Xinyu City of Jiangxi Province was the place for a pilot election program. The 2010 amendment to the Election Law added one provision regarding the election committee, which states that the election committee should avoid confrontational situations by abstaining. The election is overseen by NPC heads but chairman and vice-chairman of local congresses are representatives themselves, they cannot “lead” the election by principle of abstention, they have to abstain but they do not know exactly how to do it. A district of Xinyu of Jiangxi was chosen to carry out such a pilot program.

Li Fan said, “We didn’t see this coming, the more social problems exposed, the greater the social contradiction. The public tried every means possible, apart from petitioning, barricading the government and litigation they are left with running for LPC. Yushui District of Xinyu City, Jiangxi is the place for a pilot program, they didn’t expect things regarding independent candidates—like Liu Ping Incident—to happen.”

Liu Ping was a worker at an iron and steel plant in Xinyu, Jiangxi. She was laid off in 2009 and for a few years she’s been fighting for paid holidays and overtime she never received. In this district-level election, Liu felt that it was too difficult for an ordinary worker to fight for rights so she thought of running for LPC. Her idea was supported by many residents and coworkers. Liu said, “LPC deputies have the approval right which is powerful. Their joint action can oust heads who perform poorly, nominate deputy chief of Procuratorate and deputy chief of court. My rights have been violated and my representative was assigned to me. So I hope all of you can use this weapon in hand, that is, use ballot paper to protect your dignity.” Liu Ping’s joint nomination met the minimum requirement but she failed to become an official candidate. A few days before the Polling Day, the police had a little talk with her and then she disappeared and only regained her freedom after the election. This incident was widely circulated online and reported on by a few mainstream media outlets. The local officials were forced to explain the incident but people remained doubtful of their explanations.

According to Xinhua News Agency’s report, the Steering Committee Office of Xinyu Iron and Steel Group Company Limited of Jiangxi Province said Liu Ping was not officially listed as a candidate because she failed to obtain the required number of endorsements. Seventeen people signed to nominate Liu Ping, but five were found not to be voters of the district, three withdrew their endorsement, and two were found to be nonexistent in Xingang District. So only seven valid voters nominated her and this failed to reach the required 10 endorsements. However, many people are skeptical about this.

Shenzhen TV supported Liu Ping

Li Fan said he was in Shenzhen a few days ago and he saw the Liu Ping Incident reported on TV. First, the Xinhua News Agency story was mentioned and at the end there was the image of the original letter with the 15 signatures of voters who endorsed Liu Ping and said “These 15 voters were confirmed to be valid voters.” People in Shenzhen didn’t buy Xinhua News Agency story. In Yushui district there are at least four or five independent candidates, some are petitioners, some are workers. They run into problems and cannot find ways to address their problems, so they nominate themselves to run for LPC. Yushui District of Xinyu is the location selected for a pilot program about the election committee. It was a surprise to the administration that an independent candidate arose there. The Central government didn’t know how to respond to this. Mainstream media outlets flocked to interview Liu Ping and the wide coverage overwhelmed the government. It was just like the 2003 LPC election, where independent candidates came forward in Shenzhen, Hubei and Beijing and drew much attention resulting in scholars holding seminars. In the 2006-2007 general election the authorities tried to keep things under control by banning things at every turn. Independent candidates were eliminated one by one. The authorities thought it has kept things under control and didn’t expect the Liu Ping Incident to provoke the reaction of voters everywhere.

Li Fan said “For internet celebrities to run for LPC, it is a lawful and normal exercise of citizens’ rights, it is progress in civil and political participation. Using Weibo to announce one’s election bid means the Chinese public has the will to participate in politics but lacks the channel to do so. Self-nomination has become an important channel. So far today, the Central government hasn’t said anything about this.”