Hu Jiang Quan doesn't look like the average politician who is running for office. He wears wide, purple pajama pants and a t-shirt when he introduces himself on a rainy afternoon at the gate of his university in Hangzhou, a city in eastern China.
,,Sorry'', he says. ,,I just woke up two hours ago. Yesterday was my birthday and I got extremely drunk.''
The 21-year old student of Marketing is a not so typical candidate running in a not so typical election. He is aiming for a seat in the parliament of the university district of Hangzhou.
For close to 70 years now, China is ruled by a Communist Party with an iron stronghold on power. It is only at the lowest levels of government, city districts and villages, that Chinese can elect who represents them. This happens through direct elections which are held every five years. From now until October next year, over two million representatives will be elected in two thousand city districts and thirty thousand villages.
Until now, these elections passed quietly. Candidates and voters alike were appointed by the local governments, which adhered to the Party line in their selections.
But this time, it's different. Hundreds of Chinese citizens are running as independent candidates, just like Hu. Instead of following the traditional route by slowly rising within the ranks of the Party, they use the power of microblogs to reach out to voters.
During previous elections microblogs didn't yet exis. Just five years ago the internet was not at all as widespread in Chinese society as it is today.
Even though these independent candidates are relatively few in number, they managed to hit an open nerve in Beijing.
,,Even professors at this university don't know who represents them in the local People's Congress'', Hu says, sitting at a table in the canteen of the Zhejiang Economics University. ,,Nobody seems to care. I think it's time to get the professors and the twenty thousand students of this university more involved. They should be aware of the fact that they have the right to elect their own representatives. They even have the right to stand for election themselves. To be sure, I don't expect to change the system by running, but we all have to start somewhere. If we take small steps at a time, sometime in the future we will see a changed China.'