Political activists expressed mixed feelings on Wednesday after Shanghai writer Xia Shang announced he is giving up on participating in the local people’s congress election as an “independent candidate.”
“I have experienced unforseen problems and hindrances since I announced my decision to participate in the local congressional election,” said a message published on Wednesday on Xia’s microblog on Sina Weibo.
He had applied for a district-level people’s congress seat in Shanghai in May.
Xia said a recent series of public events had “also disappointed and frustrated” him.
But he stressed to the Global Times that his decision was made due to “the loss of interest in the political game,” not “external pressure.”
His decision disappointed some fans.
“I can understand you, but I can’t agree with you,” wrote a microblog user named “Juzijun.” “We had high expectations for you (independent candidates).”
Others, particularly independent candidates, voiced understanding.
“The pressure we (independent candidates) shoulder is extraordinarily great,” Li Chengpeng, a controversial writer and representative independent candidate, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
But, some doubt Xia’s reasons for stepping down.
Yao Bo, a renowned online commentator who applied for a district-level people’s congress seat in Beijing this year said he “has never encountered any official interference,” but he heard some who joined the election as independent candidates were suddenly audited by local taxation bureaus.
But Li and other candidates said their determination to run for seats wouldn’t sway because of Xia’s stepping down.
“I will not give up,” Li said. “If everyone quits the game, our government’s image will be hurt.”
Since the end of May, China began seeing a wave of independent grass-roots candidates seeking election as deputies of local people’s congresses.
According to Wu Danhong, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law and also an independent candidate in Beijing, more than 50 are running.
The phenomenon mirrored “an awakening of civic awareness” among Chinese, Wu said.
“If I fail this year, I will try five years from now when the next election comes,” Wu added.
According to the Electoral Law, any qualified citizen above 18 years of age has the right to vote and run for office in China, following specific election procedures.
An official of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, elaborated in June that the procedures follow four steps: A citizen must first register and win confirmation of his or her qualifications for lawmaker candidacy, then receive a nomination as “deputy candidate” by political parties, social organizations, or 10 or more voters in one constituency.
Sun Zhao contributed to this story