Election Activist Stands Trial

Authorities in southern China try an independent candidate who hoped to stand for local parliamentary elections.

2012.02.09
Staff at a Chinese company cast votes in local parliamentary elections in Shanghai, Sept. 14, 2011.
ImagineChina

A court in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong is trying an independent parliamentary election candidate this week for violating electoral law, her lawyer said.

Last October, hundreds of Li Biyun's supporters turned out in her home district of Rongli, in Guangdong's Foshan city, to protest her detention.

But her trial went ahead this week at the Shunde district People's Court in Foshan, according to her legal representative Wang Jinping.

"Li Biyun was charged because she protested against illegal election practices," Wang said, adding that Li had scant chance of a fair trial.

"The elections were organized by the local National People's Congress (NPC), and now the public prosecutors and the judges are all people who were appointed by them," he said.

"There are also clashes of interests in the mix. We asked for the judge to be withdrawn, which is a very reasonable request, but it was refused."

Rongli residents wrote an open letter to the Shunde electoral committee in October which garnered around 900 signatures, calling on them to declare the election results null and void because of "illegalities," one of which was the detention of Li.

Independent candidates

Dozens of political activists across China have joined the campaign to file applications to stand for the elections, in spite of official warnings that there is "no such thing" as an independent candidate.

Official media have said that anyone hoping to stand for elections this year to the district-level congresses will first have to clear "due legal procedures," the official Xinhua news agency reported.

However, activists are hoping to use a clause in the election rules which allows anyone with the endorsement of at least 10 constituents to seek nomination.

Some of the candidates, like Li, come from the least privileged groups in society, including those who have been forcibly evicted from their homes, or who have long campaigned for their legal rights.

Li's trial

Li's sister Li Caiyun said her sister appeared drawn and pale as she stood in the dock, wearing manacles that weren't removed even after she fainted.

"She had manacles on her hands and feet," Li Caiyun said. "My sister's health isn't very good; she's quite ill, and she couldn't stand very easily."

"It's not like she's a murderer. Why did they have to put manacles on her? It was too cruel for words."

Several hundred of Li's supporters showed up outside the courtroom on Wednesday and Thursday to support the activist during her trial, but only a dozen were admitted.

One supporter surnamed Li said he had been approached as he left home on Wednesday morning by local police, who warned him not to try to attend the trial.

"Sister Li fought for the rights of the villagers and protested against violations of electoral law, and she led the villagers in the fight against  corruption," he said. "She has never committed any crime."

He said the local authorities were making an example of Li.

"They are just trying to terrorize us," he said. "They don't want the villagers to fight for their rights."

Repeated calls to the Shunde District People's Court went unanswered during office hours on Wednesday. Li's trial continues on Thursday.

Assault claim

Jiangxi-based political activist Li Sihua, who has himself tried to stand as an independent candidate for local NPC elections, said the case against Li hinged on the fact that she had accidentally injured someone with a pair of scissors.

"The person's injury was very light, and they said themselves that they didn't wish to press charges," he said. "Such a case, even if it was brought, should be a civil claim for injury and not a criminal case."

"If she did disrupt an election, then she only disrupted an illegal election in protest at its illegality," Li Sihua said.

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

More than two million lawmakers at the county and township levels will be elected during nationwide elections, held every five years, in more than 2,000 counties and 30,000 townships from May 7 through December of next year.

Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin service and by Fung Yat-yiu for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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Anonymous
Feb 09, 2012 01:45 AM

The existing "democratic parties" in China are a joke; their budgets are paid by the CCP and their leaders are hand-picked by the CCP. The CCP has always either bought off or intimidated or cracked down mercilessly on any person or group who has challenged its illegitimate monopoly on political authority in China.