A rights activist in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong has called off her bid to stand in local elections for the next village chief after intimidation from the authorities, she told RFA.
Tian Ruidi, who has been active in helping residents of Shangdong village near Guangdong’s Huizhou city defend their land rights, said she is now staying away from home amid a slew of threats and repeated interrogations by local police.
Her husband Tian Xinhua told RFA: “The village secretary asked her to withdraw from the election.”
“People came from the police station and the city government, and told people not to vote for my wife,” he said. “My wife refused [to withdraw], and now she is in hiding.”
Local rights activist Chen Tian confirmed Tian’s story.
“A lady whose surname is Tian is now being threatened by [government-backed thugs],” Chen said. “The local police station wants to arrest her, and she has gone into hiding.”
“The local government sent large numbers of workers to the village to go from house to house, telling people that they shouldn’t vote for her.”
Tian has spoken out about the pressure being put on her online, posting a video clip of a Feb. 19 village committee meeting during which the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) village secretary asked her to withdraw her candidacy.
“Secretary Zhang Xinhua asked me to withdraw from the village leader election qualification round,” she said in that video. “This is an illegal act that undermines the election system and subverts the system of governance.”
“He is illegally depriving citizens of their right to run for election,” she said.
Tian’s candidacy could potentially have toppled incumbent Tian Xinwu from the top job in the village of 300 residents, where 200 have the right to vote in local elections.
She has previously worked to expose local corruption linked to government compensation for land lost to development that was sent to the village, but never passed on to those eligible for it.
Voting went ahead on Tuesday, but another resident of Tianwu said villagers were unable to witness the ballot papers being counted on Wednesday.
“The general public wasn’t allowed to get anywhere near the big screens in the hall,” he said. “The police were blocking the doors and wouldn’t let us through, although we had been allowed through on polling day.”
Tianwu is the site of a long-running dispute between local officials and residents over rental income nearby Hualong quarry, which had been paid out to the registered lease-holders of the land used for the business.
Repeated calls to local CCP secretary Zhang Xinhua and incumbent village chief Tian Xinwu rang unanswered on Wednesday.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.