Zeng Jinyan: China Votes … On the Internet

On Probe International, activist Zeng Jinyan, whose activist husband Hu Jia is currently in prison, puts together a snapshot of the Internet-enabled independent candidacies for local political office:

Some 30 netizens from different backgrounds from several cities of many provinces – from Yunnan to Zhejiang to Jiangsu to Gansu to Jiangxi province, to name just a few – are coming forward to announce their candidacy for the upcoming election. The group known
as “Independent Participation in the Election of People’s Representatives” on Weibo now has 523 members. These microbloggers, who have announced their decisions to run as candidates for the election, are using the micro-blogosphere as a platform to discuss their campaign positions and strategies with each other and with the public, as well as to discuss election rules and guidelines under the constitution, disseminate their election slogans and policies, posters, proposals and goals if elected, and to listen and talk to their voters. One after the other, as the microbloggers announced their intention to run in the elections, their voices, and those of their supporters echoed across China and more candidates came forward stating their intention of running too.

One petitioner[5], named Liu Ping[6], a former State Owned Enterprise (SOE) worker who was forcibly retired, is perhaps the mother of this emerging microblog election campaign. After petitioning fruitlessly for almost three years for workers’ rights, she decided instead to run for election as a local people’s representative. Then, on May 13, she was detained, only to be released five days later, on May 18. May 15, as it happened, was the day of the vote for the election of the candidates for the local people’s representative. Liu Ping said on the morning of her release: “No matter what the result [of the May 15 vote], I have already won.”

No one knows what will happen as these citizens attempt to transfer their Internet-announced candidacies in the upcoming elections to the real world of China’s electoral process. Will their rights to become candidates be honoured? Or will they be detained on the day of the vote, just as Liu Ping was?

Ironically, Chinese dictator Mao Zedong used to famously say, “A single spark can start a prairie fire” to describe a people’s revolution. Now in this modern authoritarian country, we may be witnessing the little spark that could start a political rights movement on the Internet.

CDT has translated an essay by candidate Li Chengpeng explaining his reasons for launching his candidacy.