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China - Local Elections

Citizens lack the right to change their government peacefully and cannot freely choose or change the laws and officials that govern them. Rural citizens voted directly for their local village committees, which were not considered to be government bodies, and, in some areas, for Party-reviewed candidates for positions in township governments and county-level people's congresses. However, people's congress delegates at the provincial level were selected by county-level people's congresses, and, in turn, provincial-level people's congresses selected delegates to the NPC. Although the Party vets candidates for all elections above the village level, many township, county, and provincial elections featured competition, with more candidates than available seats in some races. Many elections, however, remained tightly controlled. Under the Organic Law of the Village Committees, all of the country's approximately 1 million villages were expected to hold competitive, direct elections for subgovernmental village committees. A 1998 revision to the law called for improvements in the nominating process and improved transparency in village committee administration. The revised law also explicitly transferred the power to nominate candidates to the villagers themselves, as opposed to village groups or Party branches. According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the majority of provinces have carried out at least four or five rounds of village elections. Foreign observers who monitored local village committee elections judged the elections they observed, on the whole, to have been fair. However, the Government estimated that one-third of all elections had serious procedural flaws. Corruption and interference by township level officials continued to be a problem in some cases.

Since 1998, there has been experimentation at the township level designed to expand the role of township residents in the selection of their leaders. The country's Constitution forbids direct election of officials above the village level, and a 2001 NPC directive emphasized that direct election of township-level officials was forbidden. Nonetheless, experimentation with indirect township-level elections continued during the year, and results of such elections were allowed to stand. Most such "elections" involved open nomination of candidates by township residents and pro forma confirmation by the township people's congress, selected either directly by residents or indirectly by "residents' representatives."

According to Ministry of Civil Affairs statistics, by 2012 almost all of the country’s more than 600,000 villages had implemented direct elections for members of local subgovernment organizations known as village committees. The direct election of officials by ordinary citizens remained narrow in scope and strictly confined to the local level. The government estimated that serious procedural flaws marred one-third of all elections. Corruption, vote buying, and interference by township-level and CCP officials continued to be problems. The law permits each voter to cast proxy votes for up to three other voters.

But the local governments kept independent candidates--those without official government backing--off the ballots despite meeting nomination criteria. No declared independent candidates won election by year’s end. Election officials pressured independent candidates to renounce their candidacies, manipulated the ballot to exclude independent candidates, refused to disclose electorate information to independent candidates, and sometimes adjusted electoral districts to dilute voter support for independent candidates.

Candidates favored by local authorities have been defeated in some elections, although, in general, the CCP dominated the local electoral process. Approximately 60 percent of the members elected to the village committees were Party members. National-level election procedures mandate secret ballots and require villagers to be given ballots with space for write-in candidates, and these requirements were implemented in most cases. In elections for district level people's congresses, independent candidates were elected in Guangdong Province in May 2003 and in Beijing in December 2003.

After violent December 2011 protests, in March 2012 residents in Guangdong Province’s Wukan Village carried out village-level elections that were transparent and free of government manipulation. An election board selected by village residents oversaw the selection of candidates, and the counting of ballots was publicly conducted in the presence of foreign media.

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