Candidates harassed as voters go to polls

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 November, 2011, 12:00am

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Beijing's district and county people's congress elections took place yesterday, with estimates of about nine million people casting votes, amid allegations of harassment of 'independent candidates' standing without official endorsement.

A total of 14,290 deputies will be elected to the grass-roots congresses. Results are expected to be announced in the middle of this month.

Voters began arriving at voting stations in the Shuangchen community in southern Beijing just after 8am yesterday, reported Qianlong.com, a Beijing government-backed news portal.

Leaders also voted yesterday, including President Hu Jintao, who voted in the Zhongnanhai area in the capital's Xicheng district, China Central Television reported.

This year's voting attracted more attention than usual because of a wave of online campaigns by 'independent candidates' - including academics, journalists, bloggers, lawyers and farmers. They attracted widespread support and mounted serious campaigns but some said the authorities had disrupted their campaigns or harassed them.

The official media said voters enjoyed their legal rights in the selection of delegates who they trusted.

Guo Yuying, the chief of the Xidajie electoral district in Chongwenmen, said that they had put up candidates' details and organised campaigns so voters could know more about who was standing. Voters were given guidance on how to vote when they arrived at the station.

The Zuojiazhuang community in Chaoyang district sent ballot boxes to the homes of older residents so that those who had difficulties walking could still vote.

But some 'independent candidates' said yesterday that they had been harassed or tailed by police.

Ye Jingchun claimed he had been accompanied by police officers.

'It's only a formality, because many voters have no idea about who the candidates are,' Ye said.

Xu Xiangyu, 59, an official candidate in Yinmajing village, Huangcun town, in Daxing district, has been fighting for proper house demolition compensation for villagers since 2006.

She became the only officially authorised candidate among nearly 60 people who announced their candidacy in Beijing online.

'It's too difficult to fight for our legal rights right now,' she said. 'If I was elected, I believe it would be helpful for the fight.'

Liu Chunxiang, 53, a supporter of Xu, said: 'Even though Xu was not elected, it's still a victory for us.'

Independent candidates, nominated by other voters and not affiliated with the Communist Party, can only become official candidates, with their names printed on ballots, after being approved by district election authorities. If they fail to get on the ballots they can still be elected if enough voters write down their names underneath the official candidates' names.