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Chinese villagers protest rigged election

Residents of a north China village disrupted a local election over the weekend alleging that it had been rigged, reports said on Monday, Sutirtho Patranobis reports.

world Updated: Jan 01, 2013 01:07 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Residents of a north China village disrupted a local election over the weekend alleging that it had been rigged, reports said on Monday.

The news of the disrupted election comes at a time when an open letter written and signed by some of China’s top intellectuals warning the government to usher in political reform or face a violent revolution is circulating online.

“If reforms to the system urgently needed by Chinese society keep being frustrated and stagnate without progress, then official corruption and dissatisfaction in society will boil up to a crisis point and China will once again miss the opportunity for peaceful reform, and slip into the turbulence and chaos of violent revolution,” they wrote.

He Weifang, a law professor at Peking University and one of the signatories, told Reuters he believed the demands were rather moderate, but that now was the time to make them as President Hu Jintao prepared to hand over the reins of state power to Xi Jinping, who was made party chief in November.

“We have come to that period again when the leadership is changing. People expect continuing advances when it comes to reform of the political system,” he said.

In Saturday’s incident, more than 100 villagers in Panguanying village, Qinhuangdao city of North China’s Hebei province crashed into vote-counting rooms at a local primary school, and disrupted the election for village head, which they deemed "illegal."

"We don't recognise this election because the village election committee members were not recommended by us villagers. The committee cheated on the votes and threatened villagers," Pan Zuofu, a vegetable farmer in his 40s, told the Global Times.

“Pan Zuofu and dozens of villagers held a red banner saying "Please return the right to vote to villagers in Panguanying" at around 10:30 am, two hours after the election started, demanding Ru Xuejun, a town official in charge of supervising the election, explain why an election villagers considered unfair still went ahead,” the newspaper reported.

“The election has become key to the village's fight against the continuance of a garbage incineration project co-funded by the Qinhuangdao city government and environmental technology company, which villagers feared would lead to pollution since the environment assessment for the factory had been proved to be a forgery.”

China’s village-level elections are symbolic and tightly controlled by the local units of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC). But it’s rare for even these symbolic elections to be disturbed. Saturday’s incident was the latest in which villagers have come out in protest against the government, mostly against industrial projects with potential to pollute.