The family of a leading democracy activist in central China fear he has been detained by the authorities for helping voters, his wife has told the Guardian.
Yao Lifa, a teacher and rights campaigner in Hubei province, vanished on his way to work on several days ago. He was one of China’s first independent candidates in local elections in the 1980s and his wife, Feng Ling, said she believed he might have been held because he had been helping people to understand their voting rights ahead of this month’s contest for the Qianjiang municipal people’s congress.
Voters can directly elect village leaders and representatives in local party congresses, but the vast majority of candidates are Communist party members and almost all have the backing of the authorities. Although the bodies have limited powers, experts suggest the elections have provided some say for ordinary citizens and tempered some abuses by officials as well as offering an experiment in democracy.