Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan have beaten up a woman who tried to register as an independent candidate in forthcoming elections to her local legislature, she told RFA from hospital on Wednesday.
Wang Yicui was beaten up by officials in Sichuan’s Neijiang city government for allegedly "obstructing the electoral process," she said in an interview from the Neijiang No. 3 People's Hospital, where she is recovering following multiple soft-tissue injuries.
Wang said she had planned to stand as an independent representative for the People's Congress in her hometown of Fengming, which is part of Neijiang.
"Yesterday I went to Neijiang city government to find about participating in the district People's Congress election," Wang said. "[They] didn't want me to run and they were verbally abusive."
Wang said the beating came as she tried to stop an official from snatching away her cellphone after she started taking photographs of the officials concerned.
"He starting beating me up, until I wound up on the ground," Wang said. "I called the police, and they came, but they didn't do anything except get me to sit in the police car, and then an ambulance came."
She said police had refused to ask her attacker to pay her medical expenses for which she has no money to pay.
Representing ordinary people
Wang said she wanted to represent the interests of ordinary Chinese who lack a voice in government institutions.
"I wanted to take part in the election so I would have the chance to speak out, because the people put forward by the government don't speak for ordinary people," she said.
"I wanted to speak for ordinary people, and also actually do something to help them," she said.
A police officer visited Wang in hospital on Wednesday to take a statement from her, but have taken no further action.
"I have soft-tissue injuries all over, and the hospital has given me a bill for all the tests, but I haven't got any money," she said.
Sichuan-based rights activist Huang Qi, who runs the Tianwang rights website, said similar incidents have occurred throughout the province, as ordinary citizens seek registration as independent candidates, only to run into fierce opposition from the authorities.
"Once again, we see that Chinese officials are very hostile to elections, they fear them, and they will stop at nothing to ensure that they aren't genuine elections," Huang said.
"This is not an isolated incident," he said, citing the harassment of would-be independent candidate Jiang Chengfen in Hanyuan county.
He called on the government to enforce current laws allowing candidates who garner 10 nominations from local residents to enter local polls.
"People should be free to exercise their constitutional rights and elect genuine representatives to the People's Congresses," Huang said.
The attack on Wang came as 58 would-be candidates in the central province of Hubei issued a declaration saying that local elections should be used to put the people back into democracy.
"If the people are in charge of the country, then voting is the source of our power," the declaration, signed by former People's Congress deputy Yao Lifa and 57 local election hopefuls, it said.
""We call on officials with strong political and moral integrity to come forward and accept [independent] candidates nominated by voters," it said.
A right and responsibility
Independent candidate Wu Lijuan said that taking part in elections should be the right and responsibility of every citizen.
"People want to elect their own candidates; people who can speak for them," Wu said. "They have no use for government-selected candidates who only serve the elite."
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.
But powerful vested interests mean that the majority of local "elections" are a fait accompli, while independent candidates are frequently targeted for persecution, harassment, and detention.
In September, authorities in the central province of Hunan detained four people who campaigned for the election of an independent candidate to the local People's Congress.
Guan Guilin, Yu Cheng, Zhang Shixiang, and Hu Shuangqing were taken away by state security police after they accompanied Guan to register as a candidate in forthcoming elections for the Qidong county People's Congress, Hunan rights activist Ou Biaofeng told RFA.
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.
Every three to five years, China "elects" more than two 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 state media have previously warned that there is "no such thing" as a candidate independent of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
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 and Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.