Local Authorities Interfere With Rights To Vote and Stand for Election

December 8, 2006

Local authorities continue to interfere with citizens' rights to vote and stand for election in the 2006-2007 cycle of county and township local people's congress (LPC) elections. Officials have harassed and taken into custody independent candidates and their supporters who threaten Communist Party control over the process and candidates.

Local authorities continue to interfere with citizens' rights to vote and stand for election in the 2006-2007 cycle of county and township local people's congress (LPC) elections. Officials have harassed and taken into custody independent candidates and their supporters who threaten Communist Party control over the process and candidates.

  • On July 26, authorities took into custody democracy activist Yao Lifa and five other independent LPC candidates after they met in Xiantao city, Hubei province, to discuss their election campaigns. Unidentified assailants beat Yao several times in 2005 while he was educating villagers on the election process. On November 7, 2006, the eve of the current cycle of LPC elections in Qianjiang, public security officials took Yao into custody as he was on his way to campaign for votes, according to a Radio Free Asia (RFA) report (in Chinese) on the same day. According to a November 13 RFA report (in Chinese), Yao believes that security officials summoned him for questioning in part to influence voters against him. Security officials have also harassed volunteers such as Lu Banglie who campaigned on Yao's behalf, according to November 6 RFA report (in Chinese).
  • After Zuo Xiaohuan, a professor at Leshan Teachers' College in Sichuan province, announced on July 30 his decision to seek election to the Leshan city LPC, authorities at the college threatened to dismiss Zuo unless he withdrew his bid, according to a September 27 Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CRD) report (in Chinese).
  • Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported (in Chinese) on September 13 that independent candidate Wen Yan (whose pen name is Sun Bu'er) withdrew from the Jianghan district LPC election in Wuhan city, Hubei, earlier that day, after unidentified assailants beat Wen and his mother on September 12. On the day before the beating, a Wuhan city public security official instructed Wen via telephone to withdraw from the election in order to avoid being beaten, according to a September 12 RFA report (in Chinese).
  • On September 17, the eve of the LPC elections in the Wuchang district of Wuhan, public security officials took into custody independent candidate Yan Yuxiang, according to a September 20 RFA report (in Chinese). RFA also reported that during the same week, officials sought out for questioning independent candidate Xiao Shuixiang. After officials threatened Xiao, he withdrew his bid and did not cast a vote in the election.
  • On September 25, public security officials took into custody Cai Aimin, an independent LPC candidate in Zhongyuan district, Zhengzhou city, Henan province, while he was distributing campaign leaflets, according to the September 27 CRD report.
  • According to a November 7 Voice of America (VOA) report (in Chinese), unidentified assailants have beaten Lu Banglie, an LPC representative running for reelection in Zhijiang city, Hubei, twice during this election cycle. Lu endured beatings in 2003, while involved in recalling an allegedly corrupt leader in his village, and in October 2005 for his role in the Taishi village recall campaign. Lu told VOA that he is followed day and night and that officials have been sent to Zhijiang to instruct voters not to vote for Lu.
  • According to a November 8 VOA report (in Chinese), Beijing lawyer Teng Biao said that more than 20 independent LPC candidates are running for election in Beijing, but that the Party still selects the vast majority of candidates. Teng has decided to boycott the elections due to Party control over the election process and government harassment of independent candidates.

Authorities have also engaged in corruption and fraud to interfere with LPC elections. On September 18, the head of the Huaqiao District Public Security Bureau (PSB) in Wuhan ordered three police officers to beat Wang Guoqiang, an officer in the bureau's communications department, after Wang reported to authorities an illegal mobile ballot box in the district LPC election, according to an October 13 RFA report (in Chinese). According to RFA, the PSB head who ordered the beating was also a district LPC candidate backed by local authorities. A 1995 amendment to Article 34 of the Electoral Law of the National People's Congress and Local People's Congress (Electoral Law) provides for the use of mobile ballot boxes to make voting more accessible to citizens with little or no mobility, according to a July 25 National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee General Office Information Bureau statement (in Chinese). The statement says that there have been many problems in China associated with the use of mobile ballot boxes, including instances of election personnel secretly filling out ballots. Other problems with mobile ballot boxes that have contributed to election fraud in China include overusage, arbitrary usage, and the lack of supervision over personnel managing the boxes, according to an October 1 report (in Chinese) on the China Elections and Governance Web site, a division of the Carter Center's China Elections Project. Official misuse of mobile ballot boxes is punishable under Article 52 of the Electoral Law, which provides for both administrative or criminal sanctions against those who use illegal means to disrupt election proceedings or interfere with election results, including through the "forgery of electoral documents, falsification of vote tallies or other illegal acts."

During the July 1, 2006, to December 31, 2007, election period, 900 million county election voters and 600 million township election voters will elect more than 2 million LPC delegates, according to NPC statistics cited in an October 24 Xinhua report. Official Chinese harassment and custody of candidates violates Article 34 of the Chinese Constitution and Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protect citizens' rights to vote and stand for election. In addition, Article 256 of the Criminal Law provides for the punishment of whoever "disrupts elections or obstructs the electorate and deputies from freely exercising their right to vote and to stand for election by such means as violence, threat, deception, bribery, falsification of electoral documents, or false report of ballots." Part II, Item 7 of the Supreme People's Procuratorate Provisions on the Criteria for Filing Dereliction of Duty and Rights Infringement Criminal Cases requires that procuratorates investigate and prosecute for criminal activity officials who engage in such actions.

According to Liu Qing, the former president of Human Rights in China (HRIC), independent candidates play an important role in challenging Party control over elections. In an article (in Chinese) published in the September 2006 issue of Humanity and Human Rights, a monthly HRIC publication, Liu said that although many independent candidates may not be elected in this election cycle, they play a significant role in serving as forerunners for civil rights in Chinese society.

For more information on Local People's Congresses in China, see Section V(d), on Democratic Governance and Legislative Reform, in the CECC's 2005 Annual Report and Section VII(b), on "Institutions of Democratic Governance and Legislative Reform," in the CECC's 2006 Annual Report.