Chinese petitioner runs for election as independent candidate, harassed and detained by local gov’t and police
Liu Ping was a worker at a state-owned iron and steel plant in the city of Xinyu, Jiangxi Province. As a full-time employee, she had been enjoying the legal benefits of paid leave and overtime pay. Therefore, the company, in order to depress salary and arbitrarily fire workers like her, forced her off her post in the name of “internal retirement” in 2009. For the past two years, she had been an activist and been to Beijing and petitioned the government to legislate for workers’ rights.
This year, the administrative district she lives in is going to hold an election for “people’s representatives,” which, as part of the multi-layered representative electoral system that elects delegates to the National People’s Congress, are local legislators. Liu Ping thought it is too difficult to defend rights as an ordinary worker, so she decided to run for the election and represent her constituency. Her idea was supported by a lot of her friends.
Liu Ping said, “A representative has quite some power. Together, they can impeach incompetent officials, appoint deputy procurator, deputy chief judge of the court and so on. My rights have always been invaded. I have been represented. So I hope everyone can use the weapon in their hands, which is a vote, to safeguard their dignity.”
“Having lived for almost 50 years, I have never seen a ballot. But I have been paying taxes and fulfilling my obligations as a lawful citizen. This time, I am going to fight for my rights as a citizen,” she said.
The election of her constituency will be held on either the 15th or 16th of May. Sadly, few people know the exact time and date. It was never announced to the public, which means ordinary people were kept in the dark and sidelined. In order to bring her candidacy to the public attention, on May 12, Liu Ping printed multiple flyers and postcards with the rough time and date, and also unfurled a banner on the streets, which says, “People’s representatives to be elected by the people. Long live the civil spirit!” With the banner, she soapboxed for her promises to the voters.
However, at around 8:30 a.m., a cohort of policemen arrived and seized all their promotional items without showing any warrant.
“Holding a banner itself has violated the law. This is an election led by the Communist Party. Not in America! Your touting votes is an illegal activity,” a policeman allegedly said to Liu Ping.
Liu Ping had been skillfully and wisely using Sina microblog as a platform for her campaign and pursuit of workers’ rights since last October. Her microblog has nearly 30,000 followers, and she updates it almost on a daily basis. She also interacts with her unknown supporters from all over the country and other high-profile activists and liberal scholars.
Yu Jianrong, a famous human rights activist and sociologist, who campaigned against abducted children exploited as beggars earlier this year, endorsed Liu Ping on his microblog. In one of his posts as a response to the police, he wrote, “If the country is still ruled by the Communist Party, the people are entitled to democracy in the widest and real sense. Liu Ping is doing the Communist Party a favor by fulfilling its promise to the people! ” (Read how Yu Jianrong campaigns against child beggars and dangerous footpaths for the blind.)
On the evening of May 12, Yu Jianrong microblogged that he had not heard from Liu Ping for over ten hours, and expressed his concern that Liu Ping might have been “disappeared,” a euphemism with passive voice suggesting that the authorities have forcibly detained her and kept her out of contact with the outside world. His announcement was shared by over 66,000 people, and became the focus of the entire nation.
Finally, the authorities gave in and released her. Liu Ping returned home at around 1:30 am on May 13. However, the local police had raided upon her home, confiscated her flyers and business cards, forfeited two of her cellphones and cut the power supply and the internet service as a punishment for “possession of dangerous promotional items.”
She has been from then on put under house arrest and closely watched by the police who “safeguarded” her. It was documented in one of the last few messages she posted on her microblog on the morning of May 13. She has not updated it after that.
In a previous post by Liu Ping, “I have a very solid and wide constituency. If the Yushui District of Xinyu, Jiangxi elects people’s representatives strictly in accordance with the Election Law, It is highly probable that I win. So because of my active participation, I have been stalked, dogged, and my residency monitored. I simply want to find a legal channel and be the voice of the people as long as I am alive.”
As the public and media spotlight and pressure increases, the local authorities and parties involved have given very oblique and inconsistent answers as to Liu Ping’s candidacy. Yang Jianyun, director of the election advising office at Xinyu Iron and Steel Group, Liu Ping’s former employer, said that as a candidate for the people’s representative, one should abide by the Constitution and laws like a role model would do; but Liu Ping had incited or participated multiple unconventional petitions. She therefore does not have the qualifications for the candidacy.
Liu Ping went to Beijing on three petition trips from July to October, 2010, and got reprimanded by the public security office in Beijing each time. She was detained for 10 days after she got back from Beijing last October by the police in Xinyu on the ground of “unconventional petitioning.”
Yang also said that the reason why the office did not enter her in the slate is that the number of her references did not meet the minimum, or 10, set by the Election Law. He said altogether 17 people had signed on the recommendation form, but five were not in the constituency, three had quit, and two were unidentified. So the number of effective references is actually 7.
However, Zhao Xuejie, a reporter with Hunan Economic TV Station, wrote in his microblog that, all of Liu Ping’s references were approached by the local police and pressured. The post has been deleted by Sina’s censors.
According to Changjiang Daily, online opinion poll showed that over 97% of people supported Liu. Her microblog posts shared by Yu Jianrong have also been echoed by most netizens. However, acting as a leader in the protection of rights is seen as a stain in a citizen’s personal history, and got Liu Ping “vetoed” when she wishes to exercise her political rights.
Liu Chang, a reporter with Caixin Magazine, wrote in his microblog, in order for the citizens in this country not to live in despair, please do not kill Xia Junfeng. In order for the country to have the last hope of future and transformation, please let Liu Ping into the election. (Xia Junfeng is on death row for killing two officers; however, he has been backed by the nation. )