In recent months, China has prominently portrayed itself as having achieved “full-process people’s democracy.” However, this rhetoric contradicts the experiences of several independent political candidates in China’s southwestern Chongqing City this year, they told The Epoch Times.
“The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has always respected and safeguarded human rights,” said Chinese leader Xi Jinping at a human rights forum on Dec. 8, one day before the U.S.-held Summit for Democracy. The United States invited Taiwan rather than communist China to attend the event, which analysts say unnerved the Chinese regime.
China’s ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, said on Twitter on Dec. 4: “What China has is whole-process people’s democracy: from the people, to the people, with the people, for the people,” parodying former President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
The experience of Chongqing resident Tang Jingzhou told a starkly different story of both harassment and indifference surrounding the political process in a Dec. 6 interview with The Epoch Times. She recounted how local authorities had placed a string of obstacles to stop her campaign and eventually left her ineligible to run.
Tang said that interference from local authorities started in mid-November when she was seeking recommendations for her to run as a candidate.
She obtained more than 20 recommendations from her neighborhood in Yuzhong District, Chongqing City, within half an hour, thanks to her solid contribution to the local property owners’ committee. The minimum requirement for candidacy is 10 recommendations.
“They [local authorities] made calls to my references—my neighbors—and pressed them to withdraw their recommendations, especially those who work in state-run agencies and who they thought would likely be influenced by pressure from their employers,” said Tang. “Their excuse was I didn’t have a good character.”
The intervention drew anger from her references, Tang said.
On the evening of Nov. 17, she received a call telling her that she only had eight valid references, thus failing to meet the required minimum.
The official explanation was that some of her supporters had withdrawn their recommendations while others lost their qualifications because their registered households didn’t belong to her community.
“That’s their strategy to disqualify you as a candidate,” Tang told The Epoch Times.
Intimidated on Election Day
After she lost her candidacy, Tang went to vote at a polling station on Dec. 3, the election day. There, she asked staff how to vote.
“The staff were horrified,” Tang remembered. “They helplessly looked at each other, not answering me, as if they had met a strong enemy.”
Tang then asked whether they needed to check her identity. Again, she was not answered. At last, one person said there was no need for that because they knew her personally.
Tang signed her name on the voters’ list and questioned the legitimacy of the election process.
“How were those formal candidates determined? Have they met voters or received any questioning? They should have been discussed in voters’ groups.”
Her questions were soon noticed by several police officers, who came over and surrounded her, accusing her of disrupting the election. She had to leave the polling station after she marked an X beside the names of all four officially determined candidates and then wrote her own name on the form.
She said she didn’t know any of the candidates; nor was she sure whether they lived in her community.
Tang complained she could get little assistance from the governmental agencies when she needed help. She had to depend on herself to solve all the problems she encountered.
Moreover, she noted that, compared to eye-catching banners and slogans for other official propaganda, there was hardly any promotion of the election except for one public notice, which impressed her most. The authorities seemed to try their best to downplay the event in public as if to avoid attention, Tang added.
In the city of Chongqing, Tang’s three fellow independent candidates also encountered resistance.
Han Liang, who is also in Yuzhong District, was blocked from leaving home by local authorities while he was seeking references for support in late November.
Xiao Zhen from the Liangjiang New Area district was dismissed for his failure to pass a political assessment.
In November, there was only one independent candidate Wang Chengkang from Danba District, struggling to move forward on her campaign trail.
“Wherever we went, there were invariably security cameras,” Wang told The Epoch Times on Dec. 6. “As long as I said something online, someone would promptly reach out to me for a ‘talk.'”
Xiong Bin contributed to this report.