More than 30 people have so far expressed their wish, through micro blogs and other channels, to run for National People's Congress (NPC) deputies. Signalling growing enthusiasm over independent campaigning for the election, this has stirred up quite some debates among different social circles, with all of them pointing to the question whether it is a trample on the ‘red line’ of our working laws.
As a matter of fact, a society becomes stable only when it grows duly active and vibrant. With this understanding, we should look at independent candidates running for NPC deputies as factors promoting social stability, and encourage and support their efforts accordingly instead of dampening their enthusiasm.
It has been learned that at least 27 people have revealed their readiness to run for NPC deputies as independent candidates, a term first used in the media and the law circle without any official acknowledgement so far.
As prescribed in the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Election of National And Local People’s Congress Deputies (hereinafter referred to as The Electoral Law), all Chinese citizens at and above 18 shall be entitled to vote and to stand for election regardless of their nationality, race, sex, occupation, family origin, faith, educational status, wealth, or length of residence, otherwise than being deprived of political rights in accordance with law.
As for the nomination of candidates, it is provided in law that candidates for NPC deputies at all levels shall be nominated on a regional basis or on the basis of electoral units, by parties or mass organizations individually or jointly, or by voters and NPC deputies totaling 10 or more in number.
By independent candidates, we refer to those people winning nomination from ordinary voters for their outstanding achievements rather than from any party or mass organization, or those nominated jointly by voters ‘totaling 10 or more in number,’ as provided for in the Electoral Law.
As a matter of fact, independent campaigning for NPC deputies has been an issue raised long ago, and practiced in Beijing, Shenzhen and some other regions over the years. During the election of deputies to the People’s Congress of Futian District, Shenzhen City on May 15, 2003, Wang Liang, a returned postgraduate heading the Shenzhen Polytechnic College ran for the title on independent tickets and came out a winner, the first in China to independently run and win in NPC deputy election.
The number of people planning to campaign for NPC deputies on independent tickets has gone up this year. These people have also become all the more active in their efforts. This new development has not only stirred up hot debates and discussions among netizens, but also aroused close concern from different social circles. Voluntary participation by an increasing number of citizens including public figures in NPC deputy election is a big step forward and an important trend of development in China’s political life. Just as Zhu Lijia, a professor with the National School of Administration has put it: as a lawful behavior taken within the legal and system frameworks of our country, it is of great help to the lasting stability and development of the Chinese society.
Some other people have argued, however, that the practice has trampled on the ‘red line’ of China’s working laws because to run for office posts has never been included in China’s electoral system. As a matter of fact, however, the issue concerning the meeting between NPC candidates and their constituency has already been explicitly stipulated in law: “If requested by the constituency, the electoral committee shall organize nominated NPC deputies to meet their constituency, brief them on personal information, and answer questions raised by their constituency.”
It is true that China has never used the wording ‘campaign’ in its electoral system. It does include elements, however, that feature campaigning, although they differ substantially from multi-party elections practiced in Western countries. Also, candidates can meet their constituency, although through organization by electoral committees. They are not allowed, however, to meet the constituency on their own.
As a move of positive significance, independent campaigning for NPC deputies should be recognized and supported. What this move advances is the course of democratization of NPC deputy nomination. Free nomination of candidates for NPC deputies is a forward-going direction, which should be followed in nomination of both independent and institutional candidates.
The core of political system reform is to gradually bring into place the National People’s Congress system through political reform and development. This is the only way to achieve governance by law, separation of Party and government functions, and optimization of our Party-running style. A society that is desirably active will be a society of stability. When a few people ask to participate in NPC deputy campaigning, they are showing others hope of success in our political system reform and creating a new factor contributing to social stability. As the situation stands, their practice warrants no misgivings whatsoever from any of our social circles because it will not produce any undesirable impacts on the political pattern of our country.
Wang Zhanyang is Head of the Politics Teaching and Research Section of the Central Institute of Socialism and contract researcher with the China Society of Economic Restructuring.