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A one-in-five year local elections in China is attracting a higher number of independent candidates this year. They are to be chosen by the public, instead of being appointed by the Chinese Communist Party. But the way they are being treated points to how this so-called 'democratic process' is no more than a symbolic gesture.
Independent candidates in China continue to face difficulties during their campaigns. Many hope to become involved in policy making. But under the communist regime, the once-in-five-year local elections are proving to be little more than a formality. Independent candidates are being arbitrarily detained, threatened or simply left off the candidacy list.
Last Friday, police detained nine candidates from Beijing's Dongcheng District who tried to participate in a campaign event. Some were held up to ten hours before being released.
[Zheng Wei, Beijing Independent Candidate]:
"We haven't even read out our election policies, we were still at home when the police came to take us away. I really feel they're taking away our rights."
Under Chinese law, anyone over 18 can be an independent candidate if ten or more people endorse them. The process, however, is much more uncertain. In Gansu Province, candidate Yu Nan was stripped of his candidacy, despite being officially recognized after having met the eligibility requirements.
Others, like Xu Yan from eastern Hanghzou City, have been intimidated.
Since the 1980s, the Chinese regime has allowed the public to choose local representatives, which mirrors the National People's Congress—the regime's rubberstamp government. The public mostly sees local elections as symbolic because candidates who are eventually elected are usually approved in advance, and toe the Party line.