In the past two months, over 100 independent candidates announced their candidacy for seats at the local-level People’s Congress and have used micro-blogging and social media sites to gain support. Li Chengpeng, for instance, was one of the best-known as well as the most active in cyberspace. However, due to a swift and determined government clampdown on this movement, two months later, only a few independent candidates remained to make it to the very first step of the election–being officially registered as a preliminary candidate.
Liang Shuxin was an exception who stuck with the process and tried to get registered. Liang, born in 1976, is a resident of Lijiang Neighborhood in Panyu District of Guangzhou. He is the founder and executive chairman of a grassroots foundation called “Micro-Foundation” (微基金). The Micro-Foundation recently began operating a project to provide free school lunches to kids in the rural areas of Guizhou province. Liang’s campaign slogan, as shown on the flyer below, is “Elect a neighbor to be your representative” with a picture of him holding groceries in a local market. Building an affordable open market near his neighborhood is Liang’s main promise as he campaigns, for the old neighborhood market was demolished, and supermarkets tend to be more expensive.
On August 18th, the Lijiang Neighborhood Committee suddenly announced a quota that restricts the candidates to non-Chinese Communist Party members and female. Liang “happened” to be a male and a member of the CCP. The restriction was removed the next day after being widely spread online
At midnight on August 24, the Lijiang Neighborhood Committee finally released a list of preliminary candidates. The list was initially expected to be released by the end of the working day on August 24. Liang is not on the list despite his eligibility. According to the election regulation, August 24 is the last day for all neighborhood committees to release a list of preliminary candidates, and any registered neighborhood resident who has more than 10 eligible nominators is eligible to be a preliminary candidate. Liang claimed that he had 19 nominators and offered proof. Both of the preliminary candidates in the Lijiang Neighborhood are female and non-Chinese Communist Party members, as the previous restriction suggested.
The primary platform for the independent candidates is microblogs, where candidates can openly communicate with both supporters and detractors. The following tweet is an example of such an exchange:
Liang Shuxin: Off to where? //@Xiangyi Mofashi: Fuck off. Stabilized China doesn’t need a psycho like you.
(With thanks to Sandra Hernandez for her work compiling this post.)