IT'S OFFICIAL: Independent “candidates” for local elections in China are out. The Communist Party mouthpieces Xinhua and CCTV yesterday made clear what had only before been hinted at.
China’s townships and counties routinely have “elections” every three and five years respectively for representation in the local people’s congresses. The cadres' attention this year was captivated by the emergence of a wave of Internet-based, self-nominated “independent candidates.”
The positions these candidates are seeking are low-level and relatively unimportant. Nevertheless, Chinese officials and state media have been scrambling to dismiss them as illegitimate.
While the Chinese Constitution and electoral law state that anyone aged 18 or above has the right to elect and be elected, a National People’s Congress official told reporters that the independent candidates who have been campaigning online are “not recognized by law.”
Instead of specifying how the candidates exactly violated the electoral law, the official, as quoted by state-controlled media CCTV and Xinhua News Agency, reiterated “All campaign activities need to be within the boundaries prescribed by law and strictly proceed according to the law and standard procedure.”
The official continued by listing “four standard steps” of becoming a candidate in accordance with the electoral law.
1. Any citizen seeking candidacy to people’s congresses need to first register in an electoral district. The citizen then needs to go through an examination and receive a confirmation of candidacy by his or her local electoral committee.
2. The citizen needs to be nominated by a political party, social organization, or at least 10 voters in one electoral district to become a “deputy candidate.”
3. The electoral committee will discuss the list of deputy candidates with voters in the electoral district. The committee will then determine the list of official candidates based on the opinions of the majority of voters in the district or from a primary election if necessary.
4. All campaign activities must be collectively organized by electoral committees.
The official said that independent candidates simply don’t fall into the procedure, which only involves deputy candidates and official candidates.
The candidates—which include prominent figures such as writer Cao Tian, social commentator Li Chengpeng, and Tianya forum CEO Liang Suxin—have been trying to gather public support from Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter.
While their intentions sure caught the Chinese officials’ attention, their prospects seem to be marked with all sorts of obstacles.
It's just all too easy to violate the rules prescribed under the electoral law. Any of these candidates could easily get stuck in Step 1, when they need to “receive a confirmation of candidacy” by their local electoral committees.
If they are said to be already not following the electoral law, it is probably because their campaign activities, or rather pre-campaign activities, are not “collectively organized by electoral committees.”
And the electoral committees? They're controlled by the Communist Party.