Beijingers get greater poll choices
( 2003-12-08 07:57) (China Daily)
The democratic process in the Chinese capital is getting increasingly vibrant, with the participation of independent candidates in Beijing's district people's congress elections.
The independent candidates are nominated by groups of 10 or more voters, with the other candidates often being directly nominated by political parties or organizations.
Beijing has not seen independent candidates for grass-roots elections for more than two decades, said Huang Weiping, director of the Institute of Contemporary Chinese Politics Research at Shenzhen University.
According to Huang, the participation of independent candidates in Beijing is a continuation of a process started in Shenzhen in South China's Guangdong Province.
Wang Liang, headmaster of the Shenzhen Advanced Vocational School, beat three other party-nominated opponents in the grass-roots legislature election on May 15, becoming the first candidate in Shenzhen to win an election without nomination from any party or organization.
The 44-year-old Wang, who spent a year as a visiting scholar at the University of California in Los Angeles, said his victory was an outcome of the progress of democracy and rule of law in China.
The People's Daily newspaper said in August that allowing more people to recommend themselves as candidates would mobilize people to elect their own spokespersons, improve popular political participation and liven up both the electoral process and the day-to-day life of the people's congresses.
"I hope my participation in the election will help enhance democratic awareness among intellectuals and help make elections more competitive,'' said Xu Zhiyong, a 30-year-old lecturer at the Law Department of the School of Humanity Law and Economics at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications.
The Chinese media are not unfamiliar with Xu.
Together with two other scholars with law doctorates, Xu submitted a written appeal for the National People's Congress, the nation's top legislature, to review the constitutionality of an administrative regulation on urban vagrants management after the brutal death of Sun Zhigang, a migrant worker in South China's Guangdong Province.
The State Council later abolished this two-decade-old regulation which allows police to arrest people found without resident permits.
"If I were elected, I would do more things for the public, as much as I could,'' Xu said. He now has specific plans on helping the government draw up better policies on household relocation plans and improve the information service in Haidian District, where he lives and works.
Xu is not the only independent candidate in Beijing's colleges and universities. Six students, four from Peking University and two from Tsinghua University, have also issued their campaign pronouncements on their campus bulletin boards.
"Don't you care who the candidates are? I will strive hard to make you care,'' Yin Jun, a self-nominated candidate in Peking University, said in his online statement.
XU: Process more important
Xu said the result is not as important as the process, which indicates a kind of social progress. But he was happy to find that he has got his name on the ballot papers in his constituency.
The two independent student candidates in Tsinghua University and one in Peking University have also won official nomination. They will stand in the final vote on Wednesday.
These independent candidates in the universities have strong aspiration for self-expression and they have given greater attention to the improvement of the democratic election system in this country through their own practice, according to Huang.
Huang said there is another category among the Beijing independent candidates. They belong to the newly emerged middle class who would like to safeguard their economic interests through elevating their political status.
Shu Kexin appears to be one of these.
"Now that I've earned a certain amount of money, money has lost its importance. My interest now is how to supervise the people who say that they work for me,'' said Shu, head of the landlords' committee of Chaoyang Garden, a luxury residential compound in Beijing.
But Shu failed to get himself on the final list of candidates. Whether he will continue his efforts for the next election in three years remains unknown.
*** Wednesday set as polling day
Wednesday will be voting day for Beijing's eight urban district elections.
A total of 7.9 million registered voters will elect 4,403 deputies to the local people's congresses of the capital's 18 districts and counties before the end of this year. The election will be held in 2,326 constituencies, with from one to three deputies for each constituency.
The Election Law stipulates that deputies to the grass-roots congress, those at district, county and township levels, should be elected directly by the voters. These deputies hold office for a term of three years.
While the deputies to higher levels -- ranging from municipalities, provinces and autonomous regions to the national level -- are elected by the deputies to the grassroots congresses.
Beijing's local election rules specify that the number of candidates nominated by the political parties or organizations should not exceed 20 per cent of the total number of deputies. That means the majority of the candidates should be chosen by the people, according to Fan Yuanmou, chairman of the Standing Committee of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress.
The Election Law says the list of all nominated candidates should be released to the public 15 days prior to election day. Then the voter groups finalize the list of official candidates through discussion based on the opinion of the majority of the voters. The final list is released five days before voting day.
Because it is a competitive election, the number of the candidates running should exceed the number of deputies to be elected by from one third to one half.
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