Thu, Aug 20, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Chinese officials required to meet local petitioners

AP , BEIJING

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has issued a regulation urging local officials to meet every month with people upset with what they see as injustices in a bid to stop them from traveling to Beijing to petition the central government.

It is the first time the top levels of the party have issued such a proposal to deal with the issue.

Petitioners — mostly from the countryside — routinely flock to the capital by the thousands to air complaints after their local governments ignore them. The system, which has its roots in China’s imperial past when people petitioned the emperor, is considered overwhelming and inefficient and a very small percentage of cases are resolved.

Petitioners in recent years have become bolder in seeking new means to get their voices heard, including staging protests in central Beijing that often embarrass the authorities. Many were cleared out before the start of the Olympic Games last August.

Complaints include land grabs by local officials, miscarriages of justice, and stories of being beaten at the hands of local police and summarily detained. Many return year after year, becoming symbols of the failure of China’s legal system.

Xinhua news agency said the inability of the system to address the petitioners’ cases has marred the public’s perception of justice.

To rectify this, CCP legal officials will visit provinces and other areas with a high number of petitioners who come to Beijing and will accept cases on the spot, Xinhua reported.

Major officials from local politics and law committees in every province, city and county should set aside one day a month to meet with petitioners, it said. Government Web sites should also receive petitions online and they should be solved within 60 days.

However, the proposal also said that people who have had their cases heard locally but repeatedly come to Beijing to petition will have their cases terminated, Xinhua said.

Officials from Beijing will regularly visit the provinces to review cases to check for any legal abuses, the report said. It is common now for local governments to ignore court decisions against them — an action that also drives petitioners to Beijing to seek redress.

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