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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

FILLING OUT BALLOT: A voter in Yeping Village in Ruijin City, central China's Jiangxi Province, participates in local township election on June 24 (GAO XUEYU)

Such face-to-face meetings were not only held in Beijing. In Guangzhou, capital of southern Guangdong Province, a total of 8,945 candidates met voters.

In addition to face-to-face meetings, people can now get access to information regarding candidates using other means. The Financial Street Election Subcommittee of Beijing's Xicheng District produced video clips for 58 candidates in 19 constituencies and put them online.

The 19 constituencies have 130,000 voters, 90 percent of whom are busy office workers who may not have time to meet candidates face to face. With the video clips, voters can log onto the website of their constituencies and learn about candidates at any convenient time.

This novel way of communication was welcomed by Guo Hao, Assistant General Manager of the China Telecommunications Corp. This is the second time that Guo has run for a seat in the Xicheng District People's Congress. Ten years ago, Guo was nominated but did not win the election.

He said that back then, there was little communication between voters and candidates.

"Now video clips and the Internet have made it easier to get your message, which means more people now have a chance of being elected purely on their own merit," he said.

Voting on

The Electoral Law provides that names and other basic information of candidates for deputies of county- and township-level people's congresses, including their age, party affiliation, education and employment status, should be published seven days before the polling day.

On the first day of November, the four final candidates for deputies to Beijing's Chaoyang District People's Congress from the North Hujialou Neighborhood Constituency were announced.

The shortlist included Yin Jinfeng, a name familiar to local residents. Yin has worked as director of the neighborhood committee since 2000. In 2005, she was elected a national model worker, the only neighborhood committee director in Beijing to receive this honor that year. The neighborhood committee she heads has been rated as one of Beijing's top neighborhood committees for 10 consecutive years. Since 2003, Yin has served two terms as a deputy to the Chaoyang District People's Congress.

Many local residents said they had voted for Yin after casting their ballots on November 8.

"She is the most trustworthy person in this neighborhood," said a senior citizen in his 80s. He said that Yin had given her phone number to elder people who live alone in the neighborhood and that she responded to their requests at any time.

"She also asked local schools to provide vocational training to more than 80 destitute people, and tried to find jobs for them," said another voter.

In the eyes of many voters, Yin is someone who listens to their opinions, speaks for them and makes a genuine effort to solve their problems.

Li Lan, a resident in the neighborhood, provided an example. The neighborhood has nearly 300 licensed dogs. Some dog owners often failed to clean up after their dogs. Yin came up with an innovative solution to this chronic problem earlier this year.

Dog owners and other residents are encouraged to pick up dog poop and bring the excrement to a local collection center where it is turned into fertilizer. Residents who comply receive awards every four months.

Many voters said that in Yin, they saw the kind of role a people's congress deputy can play. "A people's congress deputy can really play an important role in improving the local neighborhood," said Guo Yi, a senior resident.

Guo said that Yin helped make the more than 60-year-old neighborhood modern, clean and beautiful. An intercom system has been installed in all the local buildings to make them safer and hearings are held regularly on important issues in the neighborhood.

"More importantly, the neighborhood committee led by Yin helps vulnerable people, dissolves social conflicts and sets up a mechanism to address pressing public concerns," Guo said.

One of the other three people running for people's congress seats in the North Hujialou Neighborhood Constituency works at China Central Television, the national broadcaster whose new office building is close to the neighborhood. Many voters supported him in hopes that he would attract more publicity to their neighborhood and its problems.

On November 15, the Election Office of Beijing announced preliminary results of the polls held a week ago.

It said 9.1 million of 9.37 million registered voters cast their ballots, representing a turnout of 97 percent. They elected 4,349 deputies to people's congresses of 16 counties and districts and 9,931 deputies to people's congresses at township level. Fifty-four migrants got seats in county- and district-level people's congresses and four in township-level people's congresses.

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