A pioneering former deputy to a county-level People's Congress has urged China's top leaders and legal bodies to overturn an allegedly illegal election in which he lost his seat.
Yao Lifa, one of China's first non-Communist Party candidates elected to a county-level congress, failed to win re-election last November after five years serving the central city of Qianjiang, Hubei province.
Yao said he and 31 other independent candidates were disadvantaged by 12 alleged illegalities. All 32 failed to win seats in the 320-member congress.
The group has submitted a petition to the National People's Congress, China's nominal parliament, urging an investigation into the election. Their document is accompanied by the signatures of several deputies and 3,800 electors, Yao said.
The voters are opposed to this manipulation by the local authorities, said after meeting NPC deputies in Beijing.
Qianjiang officials ruled that about 1,000 student electors from rural areas were no longer eligible to vote in Yao's electoral district. They allowed only one deputy for 11,130 electors in another district, but a constituency based on party work units elected three deputies for 520 registered voters, according to figures provided by the independent candidates.
Another district based on government departments was allowed three deputies for 760 electors, while some 4,500 people in Yao's education-based constituency elected just two deputies.
The officials appointed virtually all of the constituency supervisors, ignoring a legal requirement to allow voters to appoint the supervisors. They violated rules on proxy votes, dispatched officials to monitor voters filling in their ballot slips, and made it difficult for electors to obtain forms to nominate independent candidates, Yao said. Some students in Yao's constituency were explicitly told not to vote for him, he said.
They know we're right, they know they've acted illegally, Yao said of the election officials.
One NPC delegate agreed to propose a motion on the Qianjiang election at the ongoing annual session in Beijing, he said.
The independent candidates have also sent copies of their petition to the Hubei provincial congress and to President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), asking for an investigation that they hope will lead to new elections in at least three constituencies.
"We want the NPC to order a new vote in these three electoral districts," Yao said.
Yao, 46, has already helped overturn several village elections in Qianjiang, where his local popularity prompted some Chinese media to hail him as a voice of the people.
The trained teacher later worked for the education committee of Qianjiang, a city that mixes farming and industries including oil and chemicals. He is now attached to a primary school, even though he is qualified to teach politics and other subjects in middle schools.
Yao describes himself as an uncompromising advocate of the rule of law, while the China Youth Daily once called him a "trail blazer" of local democracy. His mother and father were uneducated farmers, inspiring his desire to help ordinary people, he says.
Yao accuses most people's congress deputies of doing too little for the people they represent. During his five years as a Qianjiang people's congress deputy, he produced regular news sheets, which he insisted were to fulfil his legal obligation to report back to his electors.