A student at Beijing Foreign Studies University who was involved with the campaigns of two candidates for local office gives his first-hand perspective on the independent candidate movement in China. Vincent Fang was a student of candidate Professor Qiao Mu and also volunteered for the campaign of Wu Qing, a 74-year-old English professor. He writes about the experience for New American Media:
With one week to go, Mr. Qiao’s Renren and Sina Weibo account was blocked, and when he opened additional accounts, they were all blocked, one after another, barring him from communicating with voters online. Personal blogs accusing him of previous immoralities and hypocrisies, and questioning his motives, appeared on Renren.com, reminding me of the essay “Running for Governor” by Mark Twain (a popular satire in China because of its portrayal of the hypocrisy of American democracy). Mr. Qiao’s campaign video also disappeared. Dormitory managers were told not to let him inside.
On Nov. 5, three days before the vote, as I walked past my department building close to midnight, I saw the lights of the teachers’ offices were, strangely, all on. The next day I learned that our “counselor teachers,” who are in charge of student affairs, and other academic officials, had spent the night persuading Qiao’s student volunteers to quit his campaign. A friend told me they were warned, and in some cases, threatened with danger to their future careers if they didn’t back out.
Rumors and conspiracy theories began to circulate that Qiao Mu was backed and protected by the American embassy, sponsored by western media, and that even if he failed, he could escape with his family to the United States, leaving his supporters behind and vulnerable to possible future punishment.
For fear of the invisible power of punishment in one way or another, many students quit. Even more turned silent.