Taishi residents block run-off poll for local delegate

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2006, 12:00am

Villagers cry foul after being denied proxy votes for family members

Voters in Guangdong's Taishi village, where residents tried unsuccessfully to recall their headman last year, blocked a run-off election yesterday for a delegate to a local people's congress, claiming the poll was rigged.

The election was called after one of the leaders of the recall bid, Feng Qiusheng, polled 331 of the 699 votes cast on Friday, more than rival Liang Jianhong but not enough to obtain a simple majority.

A crowd of about 20 villagers, mostly women, shouted at an equal number of election and other officials holding one of the ballot boxes yesterday morning, accusing them of refusing to let them cast proxy votes for members of their family.

'You told us proxy votes were allowed yesterday and now you won't let us vote. Everybody has gone to work - how do you expect them to come back to vote? Why don't you call off this election?' one woman shouted.

One election worker tried to take a ballot paper from one of the women, but she refused to give it up. There was no violence, unlike last year when police beat up some villagers and detained others. Mr Feng was jailed for seven months.

Panyu district and Dongchong township officials said election laws allowed for proxy votes but they were unclear about the complaints.

One of the villagers said by telephone that election workers were refusing to allow the ballot box to be opened for counting, but he could not be reached later in the day for an update on the situation.

Yang Maodong , an activist better known as Guo Feixiong who had been helping the villagers in their attempt to remove their headman for alleged corruption, said villagers told him the box was sealed and taken away by election workers.

The villagers were voting for their representative to the people's congress of the enlarged Dongchong township. Dongchong absorbed Yuwotou township, which previously administered Taishi, in January.

The hitch in the election was unexpected because Mr Yang said there had been no manipulation in the first round of voting.

Mr Yang said he was punched several times in the head yesterday when he emerged from his apartment block in Guangzhou to lodge a complaint about security agents harassing his wife earlier in the day. 'I still feel dizzy,' he said, after a head scan which showed he had suffered no internal bleeding.

He said he had also received a death threat from security agents on a subway train after getting into an argument with them because they took photographs of him.

Taishi grabbed international attention last year when activists used it to test whether mainland authorities would allow grass-roots democracy.

However, the experiment failed when scores of villagers were detained and their relatives backed down on their complaints to get them released.