More than 40 independent candidates in the forthcoming district-level parliamentary poll in the southwestern province of Sichuan delivered a protest letter to government headquarters on Monday at widespread harassment from local officials.
"Today we ... went to the Sichuan provincial government and [Communist] Party committee to tell them about the local [government] trying to prevent us from taking part normally in the elections," said Chen Qian, who is seeking nomination in her home district of Jinniu.
"A lot of us have been oppressed, beaten, and put under surveillance," said would-be candidate Hu Jinqiong. "[Today] we went to the provincial government to ask for their protection."
Fellow candidate Chen Qian said the activists intended to participate in the election process according to China's election law.
"We are taking part in the elections according to law, so they must protect us according to law," she said.
She said "evil forces" were acting with impunity towards local people who wished to use a clause in China's election law allowing candidates with the signatures of more than 10 constituents to seek nomination in elections to local lawmaking bodies.
However, when the group got to the government offices, they received scant response.
"They registered all of us with our ID cards, and then they just didn't say anything," Chen said. "There were all these state security policemen taking photos and video of us."
She said the campaigners' own cameras were confiscated and the photos deleted before they were handed back.
"There were more of them than there were of us," Chen said.
Li Zhaoxiu, who is also seeking election to local branches of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's parliament, said officials refused to meet with the whole group.
"They would only allow three of us," he said. "Three of us; Hu Jinjing, Wang Binru, and Chen Qian from Chengdu."
The activists presented the authorities with an open letter detailing their complaints, signed by more than 40 people, Chen said after the meeting.
More than two million lawmakers at the local levels will be elected in more than 2,000 counties and 30,000 townships through December 2012. The poll is held every five years.
However, officials have warned that there is "no such thing" as an independent candidate, and ordered the media not to cover those who seek election outside the ruling Communist Party.
Apart from a token group of "democratic parties" which never oppose or criticize the Party, opposition political parties are banned in China, and those who set them up are frequently handed lengthy jail terms.
Liu Yongfang, who has campaigned for many years in her home county of Shuangliu against forced evictions, said she was used to being on the wrong end of official ire from her six years as a petitioner.
"They locked us up and threatened us, and when we had to rent a place to live, they put pressure on the landlord to kick us out," Liu said.
"Now I want to take part in the NPC elections in order to continue my work on behalf of the rights and welfare of ordinary people," she added.
Elections have already been held elsewhere in China this year, amid complaints of corruption and irregular polling procedures.
Many Beijing residents weren't told that they had a right to mark their ballot paper secretly in a polling booth, according to activists involved with the election process.
On Monday, residents of Changzhi county in the eastern province of Shanxi said their local officials brought the ballot boxes door-to-door to people's houses.
"Yes," said a local resident, asked if a video posted of the incident was accurate. "We were not happy about it ... There is a lot of shady practice," he said.
"They were going to people's homes ... it was all out in the open," the resident said.
An official who answered the phone at the Changzhi county government offices confirmed the incident had taken place.
"Well, the situation [you refer to] did happen," the official said, but made no further comment.
Another local resident said he hadn't voted because he didn't want officials to see his choice.
Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese service and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.