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China: Another Failed Grassroots Election

A retired worker from Jiangxi province, China, Liu Ping, had decided to run an economic justice campaign in the grassroots level election for her local seat in China's People's Congress. In the process, she and her supporters have been harassed by local police and on May 13, 2011, she was forcibly detained. (Update May 18: She was released from police detention at around 1 a.m. today.)

Below is a plea made by Liu's daughter using her Sina Weibo account on May 15 and 16:

翠丝特丽: 我不怎么上微博,我的立场仅单纯站在一个女儿的角度,我希望我母亲不要做这些危险的事情,并且那么久以来我都是不支持的,但是作为一个中国公民,我希望站出千千万万个我的妈妈。什么我都不管,我现在只想知道我妈妈是否安全。

翠丝特丽: [1/2]你们觉得我用一个空号骗人有 意思?有些质疑尽管去好了,不关我的事!我也没心情去解释什么!我只想说我妈妈现在还是没有消息!怎么办?!今天下午我打我妈电话结果一样。关机。你们这 些人关押我妈的人连这点同情都不给么?报平安都不可以!?你们还有良心么?!你们总有一天也会体会到这样的痛苦…

I seldom use Weibo. I speak now as someone's daughter. I hoped my mother would not engage in dangerous affairs, and I do not support her. However, as a Chinese citizen, I do hope to see thousands more people like my mother. All I want now, however, is to make sure my mother is safe.

People have accused me of lying and passing off a fake mobile number as my mother's. What would be the point? I don't want to defend or explain. All I want to say is that I don't have any information about my mother! What can I do? I tried my mother's phone again this afternoon. It has been shut off. For those who have detained my mother, don't you have any conscience? Why won't you let us know that she is safe? One day, you too will suffer from this kind of pain…

Liu Ping protests against police surveillance

Liu Ping under police surveillance

Confession from the enemy forces

Internal documents from the Chinese Communist Party's Jiangxi city committee were leaked on May 14, stating that Liu Ping is supported by enemy forces and had to be investigated. In response to such political labeling, Professor Yu Jianrong wrote a confession [zh] in Sina Weibo to the CCP that he is one of those enemy forces:

自首书。中共江西新余市委书记:据称,你己下令追查支持@刘萍196412 的敌对势力,特自首。本人于建嵘,中国公民,无党派非人士,热爱祖国,坚守宪法,始终支持内退女工刘萍依据宪法和法律规定行使选举权和被选举权的合法行为。如跨省约谈,可派贵市听过我讲座的数位市县公安局长来北京宋庄画家村。

Confession statement. To the CCP Jiangxi Party Secretary for Xinyu City: sources say that you have ordered an investigation into the enemy forces which support Liu Ping (@刘萍196412 ). I hereby write to confess. My name is Yu Jianrong, Chinese citizen, non-party member. I love China and insist on following the constitution. I support Liu Ping, a female worker under the internal retirement scheme who exercised her right to participate in an election according to the constitution and election law. If you want to conduct a cross-province investigation, you can send the police officers from your city to the Beijing Song Zhuang Artist Village. Many of your fellow officers have attended my lectures.

The message was posted on May 14. Within two days, there were more than 6,500 comments from other Weibo users, many of whom proffered confessions of their own.

Liu Ping was a worker in a state-owned steel corporation in Xinyu City, Jiangxi province, until she was forced to retire in December 2009. She then began organizing her co-workers to present their grievances to authorities, efforts which saw no concrete outcome.

In April 2011, Liu Ping decided to run as an advocate for economic justice in the local grassroots level election for a seat on China's National People's Congress. However, she found herself later removed from the election ballot. According to local mainstream media reports [zh], the head of the election steering committee for Xinyu Steel Corporation, Yang Jianyun, stated that Liu was not listed because she did not get enough valid nomination signatures. In addition, he stressed that candidates for the People's Congress should be lawful citizens, whereas Liu made three attempts to petition to Beijing in 2010.

The best way to show the other side of the story is through Liu Ping's campaign dairy in her Weibo. Below is a selected translation of her Weibo updates from April 18 – May 13, 2011

Obtaining the nomination form (April 18 – April 26)

April 18:

刘萍196412 : 我竞选江西省新余市区人大代表。望大家给我力量为我加油!人民代表人民选!人民代表为人民!

刘萍196412: 迄今,年活四十七,居然从未见过选票!我为民请愿,始终奔波在维权前沿,拥有强大的粉丝!可悲的是用了大半生!都是被代表!人大代表选举的路太漫长!呜呼哀哉!

刘萍196412我在新钢厂办公大楼等待人大选举办主任杨剑云,索要属于百姓的人大推荐表,我执著,尽管她让我等待了大半生。让世界关注中国人大选举!路漫漫平和等待中…加油!刘萍!

刘萍196412终于等到杨剑云开完会了,赶紧上前索要人大推荐表,杨剑云回答你到街道办领取,我即可说:市人大选联委易主任要我向你领取的啊!杨说:刚开会决定你到街道办去领,这样吧你下午打我手机…无执著等待下午结果…

I will compete for the People's Congress election for Xinyu city in Jiangxi. I hope you will support me! People's representatives should be elected by the people! People's representatives should be speaking for the people.

Now I am 47 years old and I have never before seen a ballot. I have been running around and petitioning for people on the frontline. I have many fans. However, after all these years, someone else still represents me. This election will be a long and difficult path.

I waited for the chief of the election office Yang Jianyun at the new steel plant office building to obtain a nomination form. I have been waiting for half of my life. I want the world to be concerned about China People's Congress elections. Long way to go… Add oil! —Liu Ping

Finally Yang Jianyun finished his meeting and I asked for the form. Yang asked me to obtain the form from the neighborhood committee office. I replied that the chief of the city election committee Mr. Yi asked me to obtain the form from you! Yang said: we just had the meeting and decided that you should obtain your form from the neighborhood committee office. You can call me in the afternoon… let's see.

Update from April 22:

刘萍196412我要新钢选举办杨领导兑现上午的承诺, 要街道办李书记发给我区人大推荐表。可恶的杨领导电话回复我说。”你刘萍什么人?你怎么可以当然区人大代表?“我回答我什么人并不重要选举法规定只要年满 18周岁,不被剥夺政治权利就有选举和被选举权,新钢选举办杨领导说。”你是什么样人你最清楚!说完挂掉电话

[On April 18] I asked the head of the election office Mr. Yang to fulfill his promise and demanded that the secretary of the neighborhood office, Mr. Li, give me the form. The wicked Yang answered my call and said: “Who are you Liu Ping? How could you become a district People Congress representative?” I said that whoever I am is not important. The election law states that any person over the age of 18 has the right to vote and to be elected. Yang said: “You know who you are!” then hanged up the phone.

Update from April 26:

刘萍19641218日下午江西省新余市选联委易主任电话说,你必须叫来十人以上签名才能给你人大推荐表,我回答可以,马上就会来签名档,但是市易主任和新钢公司沈书记, 街道办朱主任李书记四人一直要求我第二天早上领表,说;”只要你叫来十人以上立即给你推荐表“尽管我明白他们已经违反选举法了,无奈只能等待明天。

刘萍19641219日早上8.30有20多名自愿赶来 我签名代表的百姓。民心不可违!(事后得知陆续赶来签名的不计其数,都被街道办驱逐拦截了)街道办李书记一看场面说要去开会让我到新钢南村居委会去领表, 为顺利拿到属于我公民权利的推荐表,我在市选联委,街道,居委,新钢总厂。均被他们忽悠来回不断奔波!

On the afternoon of April 18, the chief of the city election committee, Mr. Yi, told me over the phone that I could only obtain the form if more than 10 people came with me to the election office. I said I would do so right away. However Mr Yi, secretary of the new steel plant corporattion, Mr. Shen, and secretary of the neighborhood committee, Mr. Li, all demanded I come to obtain the form the next day. They all said: “Get 10 people here and we will give you the form”. I understand that their demand alone violates the election law, but there is no other way out. So I have to wait until tomorrow.

At 8:30 am on the 19th, more than 20 people accompanied me to pick up the form. How could they fight against people! (Later, I found out that even more people had come that day, but they were barred off by the neighborhood committee.) Mr. Li, Secretary of the neighborhood committee, said he had to call a meeting and asked me to obtain the form from the residential committee of Xingang south village. In order to get an election nomination form, which is entitled to every citizen, I had to run from the city election committee to the neighborhood committee to the resident committee and back to Xingang headquarters.

Nominees harassed (April 27 – 28)

Update from April 27:

刘萍196412: 望各媒体强烈关注;江西省首位区人大推荐表获得者刘萍。19日超过十人联名推荐表上签名!至今都未公布初步候选人名单。。。。

刘萍196412出办公室时沈书记说;”有对夫妻已经删 掉为你推荐名单了,他们都说上当受骗了“回想有这么对老夫妻为我在推荐表上签名,具体怎样赶来签名的,不得而知,但知道他俩在摆地摊,即刻赶到老俩口处, 问询有无受到威胁恐吓等手段强迫他们删除为我,在回话中得知是居委组长找他们说”还没开始选举你就签名“!

I hope media will pay attention to this: Liu Ping – the first person in Jiangxi to obtain a nomination form in a People's Congress district election – had more than 10 signatures to support her on April 19. However, up till now, [the election office] still hasn't announced the candidate list.

Before he left the office, Secretary Shen said that “a couple has removed their names from your nomination form. They said they were cheated.” I tried to recall if a couple had signed my form, and remembered that they were street hawkers. I visited them at once and asked if they had been threatened by the authorities. They said that the team leader of residential committee visited them and told them that “the election hasn't started yet, why did you sign your name?”

Update from April 28:

刘萍196412下午到居委再次递交人大推荐表,上面有20多人为我签名,居委电话要我提供她们的手机号便于联系,我回答除我母亲还有几位知道外其他都一概不详。但基本上都是强迫内退员工,且都在一个社区,你们可以到街道办查询的。

刘萍196412晚上一女同胞找到我说,苗圃居委电话问她为何签字?知道后果的严重性?让她不要搅和浑水!到居委来删除名单,最后还说要自愿来等等。她听后非常担心株连九 族!所以赶紧跑到我这路诉说,我安慰她,不用害怕,如果你担心家人那就删除名单吧,我绝不强迫你没关系唉!想为百姓实实在在做些事是多么的坎坷!

刘萍196412事后有俩女同胞电话说让她们到居委删除 名单,均被她们奚落一通拒绝删名单,好样的同胞权利意识在增加,我就看到看到希望,我敢与参与江西省新余市区人大代表选举,其结果并不重要,参与的过程就 是目的!能唤醒公民权利意识,能震慑遏制腐败蔓延!就是最好的结果,我非常平和地面对一切挑战!加油刘萍!

I re-submitted another nomination form in the afternoon. There were more than 20 signatures on it. The residential committee asked me to leave the signatories’ phone numbers so they could be contacted later. I answered that I only had my mother and a few others’ contact numbers. Most of them were workers also under the forced retirement scheme and they live in the same community. They could get their contact information from the neighborhood committee.

At night a woman colleague told me that she got a call from the Miaopu resident committee asking her why she had supported me. If she knew what the consequences were of such act. They asked her to ‘leave the dirty water’ and voluntarily delete her name from the residential committee. She was very worried that her support for me would affect her family, so she came and discussed it with me. I comforted her and asked her not to be scared. I told her: “if you are worried about your family, then delete your name, it doesn't matter”. It is so difficult to do things for people.

Later, two other female colleagues called and told me that the residential committee demanded they delete their names. They teased them and refused to do so. It is great to see that their awareness of citizen rights is increasing. The result of my participation in the district election for the People's Congress seat in Xinyu City, Jiangxi province is not important. The objective is in the process. It can raise the citizens’ consciousness of their rights, which can monitor and counter corruptive forces. This would be the best outcome. I have to face all the challenges with a peaceful mind. Add oil! Liu Ping.

Election campaign (May 3 – 10)

Update from May 3:

刘萍196412: 30日公榜初步候选人中没有我应有的名字。电话咨询新钢选举办杨主任。“根据你前期表现,认为不适合当选人大代表”。什么逻辑呀?国家选举法明文规定;年满18岁公民,只要不被剥夺政治权利都有选举和被选举权。望媒体强烈关注江西省新余市渝水区首位独立候选人刘萍!

My name did not appear on the initial list of election candidate on April 30. I called up the head of the election office at Xingang corporation, Mr. Yang. He answered: “According to your earlier performance, you are not suitable to become a candidate for the People's Congress”. What kind of logic is this? According to the national election law, ‘All citizens aged 18 or above are eligible to vote and to be elected if their political rights have not been voided [by criminal offense]. I hope media will pay attention to the first People's Congress independent candidate in Xinyu city, Jiangxi province.

Update from May 9

Liu Ping's election banner

Liu Ping's election banner

刘萍196412: 我不畏强权,一直是一个长期奔波在维权 战线上的斗士!请相信我为民请命的决心! 不管我是否当选,我都将一如既往的为民请愿,为百姓发声! 您给我授权,我为您代言。 希望大家都能够参与人大代表的竞选过程。 我的口号:人民代表人民选!人民代表为人民!我的权利我做主!我们不要被代表!

I am not afraid of the powerful. I have been a rights defender all these years. Please have confidence in me. No matter if I get the seat, I will continue to speak for people. You endorse me and I will speak for you. I hope each and every one of you will participate in the People's Congress election. My slogan is: People's representatives represent people! People's representatives speak for people! Be the master of your rights! We should not be represented [without making our own decision]!

Update from May 10

刘萍196412: 中午利用吃饭空闲到麻将馆演讲,原本以为反应不是那么强烈,没想到麻友们会一心两用产生共鸣,自选民名单4月15日公榜以来,基本上班,吃饭、下班均不断 演讲,极个别麻木不仁者,不能说没有。但更多的是非常坚决和愤怒的公民在我周围参与演讲都素不相识。下班接一员工电话;“刘姐我们这里都选你”

刘萍196412: 晚上到另一社区苗圃居委演讲,首先面带微笑友善的向大家问好“打扰一下,我是打内退官司的刘萍请问;你们对现在收入满意吗?想通过什么方式提出你的诉 求?”中拉开帷幕一下子聚集很多围观人,“原来你就是为我们递增收入延缓三年内退的刘萍?久仰大名”演讲还未进行10分钟,这里居委民众声浪就盖过了我

I made a speech in the Mah Jong hall at lunch. I did not expect a strong reaction, but the Mah Jong friends were paying attention to my speech during their game. Since April 15, when the election office began accepting nomination of candidates, I have been making speeches during meal times and after work. Of course there were people who did not show any enthusiasm, but there were more people who expressed their anger [towards the current situation] and determination [to make change]. I got a call from a colleague after work: “Sister Liu, we will elect you in our district”.

At night I had another public speech in Miaopu district. I greeted everyone with a friendly smile and said: “Excuse me, I am Liu Ping who have launched a legal action against the forced internal retirement scheme. I would like to ask if you were satisfied with your income. How would you want to put forward your concerns?” Many people surrounded me, they said “So, you are the Liu Ping who helped us defer the forced retirement scheme for 3 years and increased our income? I have heard so much about you.” Within 10 minutes, people were talking louder than me.

Home raid and forced disappearance (May 12 – 13)

Update from May 12

刘萍196412: 5月15-16即将选举,但遗憾的是选举时间并未公示,多个单位和社区迄今未发放选民证,意味着公众基本上就无法知道确切的选举时间,于是印刷些选举时间 通知和明信片,制作一横幅,上书‘人民代表人民选。公民精神万岁!”配合着演讲,大约八点半左右大批警察赶来,抢走我的横幅和选举通知书,未出示暂扣证!

刘萍196412: 局长说“你举横幅已经违法了,这是共产党领导下的选举,不是在美国!你拉选票是违法行为,我现在就传唤你”趁他找车到派出所时间,我回家了。警察很快到家敲门,说要与我谈谈,被我拒绝开门,警察说“你明天不要出来吗?”后发现家里被停电。

The election takes place on May 15 and 16, but an exact election time has not been announced yet. Many units and districts have not distributed voter certificates. The public has no way to know the election time. I printed some postcards to inform people of the election arrangement. I also prepared a banner with the slogan: “People's representative should be elected by the people; Long live civic spirit!” to display during my public speech. At around 8 am, police came to my house and took my banner and election notices. They did not give me any official document for the raid.

The head of the police bureau said, “Your banner has violated the law. This is an election under the leadership of the CCP, you are not in the U.S. Your election campaign is against the law. You've been officially summoned”. As he was looking for the police car, I took the opportunity to go home. The police knocked at my door saying that they wanted to talk to me. I refused to open the door. They said: “So you won't go out tomorrow?” Later I found out that they had cut off my electricity.

Liu Ping's last message in her blog on May 13, 2011, before her forced disappearance:

刘萍196412感谢于建嵘、李悔之、刘安军、老K、江容生、周老师等全国无数公民的关心我于今早2点不到平安回家,虽然电被掐、家被抄、楼下警察保护着,喉咙沙哑、我依然即刻上路演讲,我参选在阳光下!不畏前途太黑暗!我不孤独!身后无数眼睛照亮参选之路

Thank you so much, Yu Jianrong, Li Huizhi, Liu Anjun, Lao K, Jiang Rongsheng, Teacher Zhou and other citizens around the country. I arrived back home at 2 am this morning. Although the electricity has been shut off, my home has been raided, and I am under police surveillance, I will continue to give public speeches until my throat hurts. I will participate in the election in the light of the day. I will not fear the darkness before me. I am not alone. There are millions of bright eyes behind me brightening up my election path.

The implications of Liu Ping's participation in grassroots democracy

Many netizens have expressed their support of Liu Ping via forums and microblogs, and they have their own interpretation of the significance of Liu's tiny step:

张之俭: 刘萍由上访专业户变成独立竞选人,这是一个伟大的进步。这个意义,只有当年小岗村分田可以媲美。那个是争经济权利,这个是争政治权力。不知道当世有没有邓 小平,出来肯定并支持刘萍的这一举动,这或许会引起改革开放后三十年的更大辉煌,而这个辉煌,可以帮助中国永远走出其兴也勃,其亡也忽的历史怪圈

Zhang Zhijian: Liu Ping has transformed from a petitioner to an election candidate. This is huge progress, like the historical event of the distribution of farmland in Xiaogang village. In the latter case, it was a struggle for economic rights. This now is a struggle for political rights. I wonder if we will see another Deng Xiaoping in contemporary China to support actions like Liu Ping's. This will lead to the greatest achievement after 30 years of economic reform. An achievement which could bring China out of the vicious circle of its dynastic history.

民主力量党19900509:刘萍最终未成为人大代表候选人,并不是多数选民的意见,而是个别领导人的个人决定。在媒体的调查中,支持刘萍参选的人高达97%。这从一个侧面说明,基层人大代表选举并不民主,选举是假,集权是真。这是一个谎言和虚假脱光了外衣的年代。

Democratic power 19900509: The reason why Liu Ping failed to become a candidate is not the result of voter choice. It was a decision made by a small number of leaders. In public opinion polls, more than 97% support Liu Ping's actions. It reflects that grassroots People Congress elections are not the least bit democratic. This election is fake. What's true is centralization of power. This is an era when lies can no longer be covered up.

尝孟:江西刘萍的遭遇无疑打了所有支持温和渐进改良者的耳光,再次给唱衰者的声音配了栩栩如生的背景。你说我温和我是想帮你改革我是为你好,你说我想渐进我只是在宪法框架下行事我是公民,可人家干的就是公民,玩儿的就是宪法,人家只要奴才,只想无法无天。

Chang Meng: What happened to Lui Ping in Jiangxi is a setback to moderate reformers. It provides yet another vivid case for those who want to paint an ugly profile of China. You said you're moderate and just want to help them reform out of good will. You said you want to follow the constitution as a citizen and gradually reform the system. However, even though you act like a citizen and follow the constitution, it turns out all they really want are ass-kissers and lawless rule.

Fang_Han:看一些知名知识分子对待江西刘萍选举事情的态度,感觉很不舒服,你们是不是在支持、鼓励这样一位普普通通的女子去为理想献身?你们自己为什么不能自己也站出来去争取你们自己的选举权利呢?这才是最大的支持呀!!

Fang_Han: I feel uneasy about intellectuals’ reaction towards Liu Ping's actions. You support the sacrifice of an ordinary woman for her ideals, so why don't you stand up and fight for your election rights? That would be the greatest support!

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