Since 1978 the CCP has been toying with so-called "village elections", an experiment in a highly limited form of grassroots democracy in the people's republic. During this time, small numbers of independent candidates have been elected to various positions, like Wang Liang, who was elected to the grassroots legislature in Shenzhen.
Earlier this year it was announced that this was also going to be rolled out to include direct elections to the local People's Congress's across the country, and as a result many candidates put themselves forward for election. The most prominent story was that of Liu Ping, whose candidature was touted as an alternative to direct petitioning of the government.
I personally speculated that this might be the emergence of movement on the mainland similar to the Dangwai movement of independent candidates during the martial law period in Taiwan, whose members included Shi Mingde and Annette Lu (pictured above second and third from the right). This movement played an important part in the transition to democracy on the island.
However, it seems that the CCP have also read their history books. From today's Taipei Times:
"China told citizens yesterday not to run for local legislatures as independents, tightening reins on activists who have sought to challenge the Chinese Communist Party’s grip on grassroots government.
The warning, which came from an unnamed official of the party-controlled National People’s Congress (NPC), was in response to a small but spreading online campaign by dozens who hope to fight for seats on local legislatures with no endorsement from the party.
It was another sign that party leaders want tight political controls as they ready for a succession next year from President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) to his presumed heir, Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平).
“There are no so-called ‘independent candidates,’ and there is no legal basis for ‘independent candidates,’” said the NPC official as quoted in the People’s Daily, the party’s main newspaper."
So all those years in which independent candidates were being elected, this was in fact illegal? This would at least be the natural conclusion to be drawn from the statements of the unidentified member of the NPC, China's highest state body and legislature, quoted in the People's Daily, a newspaper which refers to itself as "the party's mouthpiece".
I am given to agreeing that this is a sign of the influence of the new generation of leadership. It does not bode well for the future.
[Picture: The Kaohsiung Eight under arrest. Picture via Wikipedia]