On November 17th, BBC News reporter John Sudworth went to the outskirts of Beijing to interview an independent candidate in a local election. Instead of getting the interview, Sudworth was met by an anonymous group of men preventing him and his camera crew from even stepping into the politician’s home.
Liu Huizhen, 45, is running to be a deputy in the local People’s Congress. These elections take place every five years and are open to anyone with ten nominations from fellow Chinese citizens. However, even though Sudworth had a scheduled interview with Huizhen, he was unable to do so after being thwarted by approximately 25 unidentified men.
BBC News describes the men as “thugs”. These men are in charge of keeping Huizhen under constant surveillance by the Chinese government. As Sudworth tried to approach her home, he was physically blocked by several men. After managing a knock, Huizhen answered and “the door [was] pushed shut and the thugs [leaned] against it.” As the politician attempted to open a window, it was shut. Her face was covered by styrofoam blocks, and she was unable to comment on her campaign to BBC.
According to Sudworth, he and his team had “some 20 or 30 strong, grab at our coats and drag us roughly down the road to where our car is parked.”
BBC News has published the footage from this event.
Running as an independent candidate, Huizhen’s campaign creates controversy for the Communist community. In China, the election system on paper is defined as “All citizens of the People’s Republic of China who have reached the age of 18 have the right to vote and stand for election, regardless of ethnic status, race, sex, occupation, family background, religious belief, education, property status or length of residence.” Huizhen is attempting to exercise her right to run for election in China, but is being dissuaded from campaigning due to the constant pressure from her watchmen.
In China these local elections are some of the only opportunities citizens have to vote. However, now many are asking whether these elections are fair? Communist propaganda surrounds the elections and communities and many are claiming that the Communist party controls the entire race.
Running as an independent candidate, Huizhen’s campaign has had interference. Yet, her fellow Communist competitors have not. The New York Times suggests that Huizhen’s situation brings to light the fear the Communist party has of outsiders in government. Officials believe that if one party gains popularity it will endanger the Communist party as a whole. However, by opening local level elections China urges the world to see that it has a democracy, even though there is a party monopoly over the system.
Wu Lijuan, a Chinese human rights advocate, told The New York Times that “we (China) have a fake election” and praised the American system over that of her country. However, many Chinese people believe themselves to live in a Chinese democracy, compared to that of the United States. America’s most recent election has been seen as a circus, or a trainwreck, by onlookers in other foreign nations like India, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
Yet much of this sentiment is spoonfed to the Chinese public by state-sponsored journalists such as in The People’s Daily. Discord on the Western stage during election seasons is seen as messy to many Chinese, yet with the footage that Sudworth was able to obtain it can be said that there is discord within the Chinese government’s unity.
As our world evolves with media today, and the ability to expose and share events is at our fingertips can a Communist, or any monopolistic party, keep power? As technology becomes harder to control, so will China’s strict laws. The suppression of free speech and of people’s rights has been made difficult as the sale of smartphones reaches massive populations. Capturing evidence of oppression like this exposes the system that so many come to distrust.