Late into the night at a small rural Chinese village of just 29 households, the lights of each household were still turned on. The village, which ordinarily would have been asleep, was as bustling as on the eve of the Lunar New Year. It was the night before the village’s general election. The homes had left their lights on as a signal to invite each candidate to come inside and “buy” their vote. This scene was described by one of the residents of Sanxian village in North China’s Shanxi Province. The resident told the Global Times that buying votes frequently happens at many Shanxi village elections, “and some villagers don’t turn off their lights until accepting money from every candidate.” A similar scenario happened in Nailin village of Shanxi on January 6, which drew nationwide attention. China Youth Daily reported that each candidate running for village head had paid each villager 1,000 yuan ($159) each. Screen shots of text messages and photos of villagers counting their money were posted online.
“For anyone who can secure Wang Junsheng’s votes, please come to the butcher shop to collect your money, 1,000 yuan each,” reads one public message in a WeChat group with 187 members titled “Nailin Village Community Management.” China Youth Daily journalists visited Nailin village and spoke with the residents. One elderly man said that on the election’s first day, two candidates each paid him 500 yuan and the third paid 600 yuan. On the second day, one of the candidates paid him an additional 1,000 yuan.
Local villagers calculated that all three candidates paid the villagers a total of 10 million yuan in addition to gifts such as jugs of oil and bags of rice. None of the villagers bother to deny that they accepted the money and gifts, and some of them even appeared envious for being paid less than their neighbors.