Independent Candidate Vows to Fight Local Election in China's Jiangxi

Yang Tingjian's house is currently under 24-hour surveillance, while his family has received threats following his bid to stand in local elections.

Independent Hecheng township People's Congress candidate Yang Tingjian is shown in an undated photo.

An independent candidate in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi has vowed to run in forthcoming elections to his local People's Congress in spite of official threats and periods of detention.

Yang Tingjian, who also goes by the pen-name Yang Wei, says he will go ahead with his bid for election to the Hecheng township People's Congress on Sept. 9 despite being kept under 24-hour surveillance by local authorities.

"They have threatened me and my family, saying that we should be careful," he said. "I was already detained for 10 days, which isn't long, but now I am stuck at home when I should be out canvassing for votes."

Yang's father said the family home is now being watched round the clock.

"Officials from the village government have posted people to stand guard outside our front door, 24 hours a day," Yang's father told RFA.

"They are always there, watching him," he said. "They stopped him from going out to publicize his candidacy and platform."

"Whenever they try to stop him going out to that, there are altercations."

Earlier, Yang told the Hubei-based rights website Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch that he would fight "to the death" for his right to run.

A last resort

Yang, whose candidacy registration was rejected on the grounds that he isn't a member of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, has now left a statement billed as a "last will and testament," in case anything worse happens to him ahead of Friday's poll.

His "last wishes" include his daughter traveling to the United States to pursue her education.

"This is a last resort," he told RFA. "Trying to talk reason with them simply doesn't work."

Yang was placed under 10 days' administrative detention after an altercation with officials when he went to consult law books to prove that nonparty members also have the right to stand.

China's electoral guidelines state that candidates may put themselves forward if they receive recommendations from at least 10 local voters in direct elections to district and township level People's Congresses.

Overall, there are five levels of hierarchy in the People's Congress system, with the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing at the top.

'All may stand'

According to a summary of the country's election law published in the English-language China Daily newspaper: "All citizens of the People's Republic of China who have reached the age of 18 have the right to vote and stand for election, regardless of ethnic background, race, sex, occupation, family background, religious belief, education level, property status or length of residence."

In practice, state-run media has said that there is "no such thing" as an independent candidate, and those who try to use such elections as a platform to represent the least privileged in society soon find themselves the target of official retaliation.

Every 3 to 5 years, China "elects" more than 2 million lawmakers at the county and township levels across the country to local-level People's Congresses in more than 2,000 counties and 30,000 townships.

But powerful vested interests mean that the majority of local "elections" are a fait accompli, consolidating the power of local leaders.

Local party officials have previously used intimidation and detention, tampering with physical ballot boxes, and paying for extra votes to maintain their grip on the outcome.

Apart from a token group of "democratic parties" that never oppose or criticize the ruling party, opposition political parties are banned in China, and those who set them up are frequently handed lengthy jail terms.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.