China's independents try luck at local parliaments

08:51, May 30, 2011      

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The nation has seen a wave of independent grass-roots candidates seeking to be elected as deputies to local people's congresses, a phenomenon propelled by the Internet and cautiously welcomed by analysts.

The trend started Wednesday with an entry by controversial blogger, writer and sports commentator Li Chengpeng, declaring he would run as an independent candidate in September for deputy to the people's congress of Wuhou district in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

Within three hours of Li nominating himself, more than 3,000 Internet users forwarded the message, leaving more than 2,700 comments. Li's blog has more than 2.9 million followers.

After the announcement, a number of people also declared their online candidacy for deputy posts, most notably Wu Danhong, an associate professor at the China University of Political Sciences and Law, and Xiong Wei, an independent scholar.

"Before I studied the law, I wasn't aware that I had so many political rights," Li told the Guangzhou-based Yangcheng Evening News in a previous interview. "What a pity if I never used them."

Chinese law states that all citizens over 18 have the right to vote and be elected, with the exception of those who have been deprived of their political rights.

A deputy to people's congress at the level of county, autonomous prefecture, township, ethnic-minority township, district under a city and a city without district can be elected among local people.

Li told the Global Times that he sought to establish a 10-member advisory group made up by scholars, lawyers and celebrities. His supporters include director Feng Xiaogang and writer Han Han.

"I must win the election to boost others' confidence," Li told the Daily Sunshine newspaper in another interview. "The authorities will find out that I am no troublemaker, just an advisor."

Compared with conventional candidates, the independents are closer to the common people, Li argued.

"We're more natural and lively, without the background and framework of a government agency," he told the Shenzhen-based newspaper.

Candidates were normally nominated by local governments and voters organized to cast their ballots without even learning about each candidate, said Zhu Lijia, a public administration professor at the National School of Administration.

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Source: Global Times
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