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Exercising the Right to Vote
Cover Stories Series 2011
UPDATED: November 21, 2011 NO. 47 NOVEMBER 24, 2011
Grassroots Elections in Full Swing
Millions of voters have or are about to cast ballots to elect local lawmakers

JUDGES: Voters in the Bajiao No.3 Constituency raise hands to ask candidates questions at a meeting on November 2 (LI WEN)

Direct interactions

On the afternoon of November 2, less than a week before the polling day, the community service center of the North Bajiao Community in west Beijing's Shijingshan District was packed. Candidates for deputies to the Shijingshan District People's Congress from the Bajiao No.3 Constituency were having a face-to-face meeting with voters.

Present at the meeting were local voters. Chinese and foreign reporters and several residents of other districts in the city attended as observers.

A retired teacher who declined to give his name said that in the past, voters and candidates did not have chance to meet each other. "Voters, knowing only the candidates' name and basic personal information, cast ballots more or less at random," he said.

The Electoral Law in force since March 2010 states that if voters request to meet candidates, the election committee should organize such meetings so that candidates can introduce themselves and answer voters' questions.

At 9:30 a.m., the four candidates from the Bajiao No.3 Constituency made a group appearance. After introducing themselves and their plans in succession, they answered voters' questions.

FACE TO FACE: Wang Yujuan answers questions from voters in the Bajiao No.3 Constituency on November 2 (LI WEN)

One candidate, Wang Yujuan, works at the North Bajiao Community's administrative office and has served for five consecutive terms at the Shijingshan District People's Congress. After retiring from the post of the deputy head of the Bureau of Culture of Shijingshan District, she has devoted 10 years to community work.

"Our community is quite dirty. If you win, what are you going to do about this?" an old man who volunteered to patrol the community asked Wang.

Wang said, "I know the community is old and not managed by any property management company, so it is up to the community's administrative office and all the residents to improve the sanitary conditions. If I was elected, I would change the community's environment within five years."

Wang's plan includes training cleaners, improving the community's infrastructure and mobilizing residents to clean up the community on weekends.

In Wang's previous terms as a deputy to the district people's congress, she called attention to the poor road conditions and bad sanitary conditions near the Shijingshan Experiment Primary School. The road was later repaired and the school's vicinity was cleaned up. Local residents commended Wang's work.

After answering questions, Wang made public her contact details and asked voters to call and e-mail her with their queries and concerns.

"The face-to-face meetings are good as they help us gain a better understanding of candidates," said Zhao Jing, a 76-year-old resident.

On the same day, another face-to-face meeting was held in a constituency in Haidian District, which is home to 10 of Beijing's most prestigious universities. Three final candidates in this constituency were in their early 20s, including Gao Jian, a doctoral candidate at the School of Traffic and Transportation of Beijing Jiaotong University.

At the meeting, Gao was asked if he was prepared to speak on sensitive social issues? Gao said, "Sure. Either as a student or a people's congress deputy, one must dare to speak up for justice."

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