Chinese democracy goes online | Asia Pacific Greens

Chinese democracy goes online

ELIZABETH JACKSON: China has been experimenting with elections in its local councils but the field has been dominated by representatives approved by the Communist Party.

Now a grassroots blogger is standing as an independent candidate in his local election and he's encouraging more Chinese people to do the same in the hope that they can bring about change through the system.

Our China correspondent Stephen McDonell spoke to Yao Bo for Saturday AM.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Yao Bo works at the China Daily newspaper and also writes his own blog. Now he wants to get into local politics here as an independent candidate. He says most Chinese people don't realize that the law allows them to do this so he is standing to encourage more people to follow his lead.

YAO BO (translated): Really China doesn't have a genuine election system. We do have a system but it's a system that nobody actually participates in. So I want to get involved in it. In reality, they will set up numerous obstacles and stop you from standing for election.

We should try and get more people to stand in elections. In this way the government can't stop it. If it is only me, they can use all kinds of methods to eliminate me from the race.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: If the law technically allows for anyone to stand I asked Yao Bo by what method officials would be able to stop somebody like him from doing so.

YAO BO (translated): Well, it depends. There are two methods: one method is obvious, another is darker. Under China's election laws, there is a special process of candidate selection.

For example, if 15 people are registered as candidates in one area, in the end only 10 people can stand for election. The decision as to who is on the final list of potential candidates to be elected has nothing to do with the ordinary people. Government officials coordinate this.

They can also use these 'darker' methods. For example, they will check your bank account to see if you've avoided tax, etc. Or they will not allow me to campaign publicly.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: The local election which Yao Bo is standing in will be held in September. Even if he does get on the sheet as a candidate for Beijing's Changping district does he think he will necessarily be voted in?

YAO BO (translated): I think, lots of my compatriots who don't know their political rights, after this, will elect me as their candidate. If they don't set up any obstacles, if they allow me to stand, I will win.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: How does he know he'll win?

YAO BO (translated): I know what the ordinary people want in my local area and what they would like me to do for them. I won't have any problem amongst ordinary people but I can't guarantee there will not be problems with the officials.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: So if he is voted onto the council what would Yao Bo like to do?

YAO BO (translated): Really I cannot do a lot. I can only fight for the rights for my community and my people.

For example, if there are not enough kindergartens, I will push to issue more licences for kindergartens. If we don't have enough schools or hospitals, I will try to get the government to allocate more money for hospitals and schools.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: This isn't the first time an independent candidate has stood or even been elected, but Yao Bo has a blog with hundreds of thousands of followers. He is hoping that his profile as a columnist might encourage wider interest in these local elections and for many more people to put themselves forward as candidates.

This is Stephen McDonell in Beijing for Correspondent's Report on Saturday, June 25, 2011 08:15:00

Original article link: http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2011/s3253413.htm