Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong have nullified a winning result in the elections for local village leaders, accusing a popular local leader and activist of stirring up unrest, local sources said.
Zhang Yuxi, who was previously elected chairman of the village committee in Shizhulan village near Shandong's Laizhou city, once more polled the highest number of votes this week, he said.
I received more than 300 votes—399 votes actually, but they say they won't count them," he told RFA. "They say that I'm not eligible to run for elections here."
Zhang said his activism in a local land dispute was likely behind the move.
"The village party secretary and the party committee have accused me of inciting [local people] to lodge petitions with higher authorities."
"But I lodged petitions in order to protect the rights of local people," he said. "Now there's a stalemate, and people are very angry."
The move comes after another popular former chairman Wang Songling alleged that the local party secretary rigged the vote and tampered with ballot boxes in an earlier round of voting in October.
Zhang said he had tried to videotape the vote-counting process, as Wang had done in October, but was stopped by police.
"Other people were shooting video, but they wouldn't let me do it," he said. "They were pointing the camera at me--people from the district government [in Laizhou]."
"The police were also pointing a video camera at me."
He said total turnout had been more than 900, with some villagers staying away in anger over strong-arm tactics by local officials.
He said dozens of police and officials had been dispatched to the polling station as villagers cast their votes.
A Shizhulan resident also surnamed Zhang said although the majority of local people supported Zhang Yuxi's candidacy, all of his votes were treated as spoiled ballots, because his name didn't appear on them.
"Zhang Yuxi's name wasn't on the list ... but he got a lot of votes," Zhang said. "He ran in the last election, but they wouldn't let him run in this one."
"A lot of people, a very big number, voted for Zhang Yuxi," he said.
"He got the most votes in all of the districts."
Repeated calls to political and legal affairs officials at the Pinglidian township government, which administers Shizhulan, rang unanswered during office hours on Monday.
Village election committee
Zhang Yuxi was elected to the village election committee on Nov. 14, a preliminary stage in village elections in China.
But he was told he couldn't continue to the next stage because his household registration document wasn't issued in Shizhulan.
Zhang Yuxi also accused local ruling Communist Party leaders of buying votes in the elections for the chairman of the village committee on Monday.
"Everyone who voted for their candidates got 60 yuan (U.S. $9)," Zhang Yuxi said.
A third Shizhulan resident surnamed Dong said many local people supported Zhang Yuxi because of his role as an advocate during a long-running land dispute with local officials.
"His vote count was pretty high, although they told us not to vote for him," Dong said. "They are saying that he incited the villagers to petition and complain."
Zhang was previously voted in as head of the village committee by voters from more than 500 households in the Shizhulan electoral district in 2009.
Chinese law requires all of some one million villages to hold competitive, direct elections for sub-governmental village committees.
But allegations of vote-rigging and corruption are frequent, despite a 1998 revision to the law allowing villagers to nominate candidates.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.