Tue, Mar 19, 2013 - Page 9 News List

China’s lawmakers know their role: ‘Raise our hands’

With a small, but increasingly vocal, minority of Chinese criticizing its choreographed ‘elections,’ it is questionable how long the Chinese Communist Party can maintain the facade of democracy

By Didi Tang  /  AP, BEIJING

“The simple answer is that there is always just one candidate [for every position],” Hong Kong Baptist University political scientist Jean-Pierre Cabestan said.

About 70 percent of the national deputies are party members who abide by the party’s instruction when voting, and the others “just copy them,” Cabestan said.

In secret balloting on Thursday and Friday, delegates were spared even the effort of voting “yes” because the default choice of leaving the ballot blank counted as a “yes.”

However, they did have the option of opposing a candidate by blackening a rectangular box next to the name. To abstain, they needed to fill in an oval box next to the name.

In Xi’s vote tally, only one of the 2,956 delegates present voted “no,” and three abstained. In some cases, delegates needed to wield their voting pens to whittle large lists of candidates into somewhat smaller lists. For example, there were 174 candidates for the congress executive committee, but only 161 slots to fill, which went to the candidates with the fewest “no” votes.

“I felt it was very democratic,” delegate Qin Chunhui said of her voting experience. “They were solemn votes that were not easily cast.”

Beijing delegate Chao Ke said the lawmakers “thoroughly” debated the strengths of the candidates before taking their votes.

“The voting has fully represented the will of the people,” said Chao, an anthropologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Murong Xuecun, whose real name is Hao Qun (郝群), wrote on his microblog — in a post dripping with sarcasm — that the politicians in one-candidate elections “can only get elected with impressive political credentials and amazing political wisdom.”

He said that while most Chinese are able to chuckle about shady deals in the world of business, they are oblivious to, in denial of or otherwise mum about their country’s political “scams.”

“Appointment is called election, dictatorship is called democracy, exploitation is called benefiting and enslaving is called serving,” Murong wrote. “What’s sad is that people are not as smart as they think.”

Peking University law professor He Weifang (賀衛方) said it is naive to believe China holds true elections.

“No one believes there’s true elections. Even the party itself does not believe it,” He said.

Yet, the selecting of China’s new leaders has once again been staged with fanfare this season in the Great Hall of the People. Delegates and the state-controlled media have all praised it.

“They have billed the system as the most advanced democracy,” activist Xu Zhiyong (許志永) wrote last week. “And they have turned the lie into an unparalleled, grand ceremony.”

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