Victory in Miniature

Last December, the tragic car accident which claimed the life of Zhaiqiao village chief Qian Yunhui raised eyebrows, with many suspecting that he was intentionally killed because of his efforts to secure better compensation for local villagers from a nearby power plant. (See more about those allegations here.) Qian had been up re-election for village chief before he was killed and many speculated his death was designed to prevent his re-election. However,  earlier this month, the villagers elected his cousin Qian Yunmeng  as new village chief, a move which seems to intentionally flout the authority of the government. From The Economist:

After his release in July, Mr Qian continued to petition the authorities about the power plant, identifying himself as “village chief by popular will” and using an official village stamp. His funeral on January 1st, a week after he was crushed to death on Zhaiqiao’s main road, prompted clashes between hundreds of police and villagers. There were rumours that one reason local officials might have wanted him dead was to keep from being elected again.

The government must have been very worried that trouble would break out during the polls on March 9th. Their instinct, as it has been on several occasions since the power-plant struggle began, would have been to send in large numbers of police to maintain order. But villagers warned that they would boycott the vote, if it did. The government again backed down (though villagers claim to have seen several plainclothes officers). The result of the election, declared at 3am the following day—to a cheering crowd—was a victory for Qian Yunmeng, who won 1,788 votes against 972 for his rival. Mr Qian is a close cousin of the deceased. In the clannish politics of Chinese villages, his victory was a clear stamp of popular support for his late relative.

China introduced the concept of village level elections to elect local leaders in the late 1980s. Since then, the village elections have not ushered in mass democratization as many would have hoped and instead critics say the local Party does too much to try and control election outcomes (see more about that here ). However, as the villagers of Zhaiqiao might attest, perhaps very occasionally these village elections can help the people resist Party pressure after all.


Subscribe to CDT


Browsers Unbounded by Lantern

Now, you can combat internet censorship in a new way: by toggling the switch below while browsing China Digital Times, you can provide a secure "bridge" for people who want to freely access information. This open-source project is powered by Lantern, know more about this project.

Google Ads 1

Giving Assistant

Google Ads 2

Anti-censorship Tools

Life Without Walls

Click on the image to download Firefly for circumvention

Open popup

Welcome back!

CDT is a non-profit media site, and we need your support. Your contribution will help us provide more translations, breaking news, and other content you love.