Nine ‘Independent Candidates’ Arrested in Beijing
Through arrests and a concerted media blackout, Chinese authorities are attempting to stop citizens from participating in local legislatures across China.
In the latest incident, 9 of Beijing’s 13 citizen candidates were arrested in the home of one activist on Sept. 16. Two journalists from a British newspaper were caught in the drag net.
Called “independent candidates,” the individuals will run for seats in local versions of the National People’s Congress, China’s faux-legislature, across the country. The elections will take place before the year’s end.
Although being an “independent candidate” is ostensibly legal in China, it’s difficult to pull off: historically the positions have been filled by Communist Party confederates.
After candidates declare their intention to run, each needs to enlist 10 people to jointly nominate the person.
But those who have gotten that far usually begin getting harassed and intimidated, to discourage them from running.
Candidates so far have had to use Sina Weibo (a restricted Chinese version of Twitter) to make public their intention to run for election because the media have been forbidden to report on them.
These independent candidates are usually activists who have fought for the protection of their legal rights, and they hope to use such experiences to help other vulnerable groups.
The latest arrest included Ye Jingchun, Yang Lingyun, Zhang Shangen, and Zheng Wei. The group had gathered in Zheng Wei’s home in Jingshan, Dongcheng District, on Sept. 16. Others arrested at the same time included a candidate sponsor, He Depu, and two reporters from Britain’s “The Guardian.”
When The Epoch Times called the Jingshan Police Station to ask about the arrests, an officer said that the station wasn’t taking calls from the media and hung up.
One candidate from Haidian district, Han Ying, told The Epoch Times that some of the arrested candidates were later moved, but none released.
She believes that, despite the harassment, the candidates won’t be deterred. “We have just started our planning, yet the authorities are already using these methods to pressure us to stop. It is unbelievable. The police are the ones violating the constitution. They simply do not want people in the election; we are now questioning whether the current representatives were elected by the citizens,” she said.
Zhan Jiang, a candidate from Haidian district in Beijing, is braced for the battle: “We’ll still participate… The pressure in Guangdong Province is also very heavy. We expect even more attention will put on the election in Beijing.”