Sunday, November 13, 2011

China's independents find it hard to get on ballot: Surprise, surprise

Han Ying had just dropped off her 9-year-old son at school and was almost home when she found an unfamiliar guard at the gate to her neighborhood, barking at her, "You can't come in."

The Beijing land-rights activist drove away, glancing with rising panic at her rearview mirror, where she could see a gray car on her tail. She pulled into the parking lot of a friend's apartment compound and bolted up the stairs.

She had gotten as far as the next floor, she says, when one man grabbed her around the waist, the other by the wrists. She held on to a baluster of the staircase, but they pried her loose and tried to drag her into the car.

"You rotten bums," Han, 37, screamed loudly enough that the men let go and drove away, but not before telling her: "We just wanted to talk to you. We're from the election commission."

What had Han done? She had filed as a candidate in elections in Beijing on Tuesday to choose the "people's representatives," the lowest level of political office in China.

At least on paper, the Chinese Constitution permits any adult citizen without a criminal record to run for the office of people's representative. In practice, however, those without the blessing of the Communist Party say they are thwarted at every pass: harassed, detained, followed and threatened. If that fails, they say, they're simply kicked off the ballots. more