China to de-link number of petitioners from officials’ evaluation

By Wen Ya Source:Global Times Published: 2013-11-12 1:13:01

Related report: Petitioning system reform indispensable to rule of law

China is undergoing a major reform in its petitioning system as the country plans to abolish the policy that links performance of local government officials to the number of petitioners they handle, a move seen by many analysts as an important step to enhance social justice. 

The new rule will likely reduce the amount of resources that local governments tend to spend on intercepting the petitions - sometimes even resorting to extreme means such as not allowing a petition to reach the central government - and instead focusing on solving people's problems, the Beijing News reported on Monday.

The government's new approach is to have the problem solved at the local level and at an early stage so that small public grievances do not snowball into larger issues, according the Beijing News.

The new method is being tested in provinces such as East China's Zhejiang and Jiangsu but findings had yet to be disclosed.

Since 2005, the State Bureau of Letters and Calls has been ranking the regions by the "number of radical and abnormal petitioners" on a monthly basis which has been closely linked to the evaluation of local authorities' performance.

The policy has been sharply criticized as many local officials sent petitioners to re-education centers or place them under house arrests to stop them from travelling to Beijing to petition their cases.

Tang Hui, the mother of an underage rape victim who has frequently petitioned in Beijing, had been detained by local authority for six months in  a re-education center in Hunan Province in 2012.

Local authorities were said to have spent more than 1 million yuan ($164,000) to stop Tang's petition, according to The Beijing News.

"The significance of abolishing the ranking system is just as great as abolishing the re-education through labor system as both hold people back from expressing their voices," Wang Sixin, a law professor at the Communication University of China, told the Global Times on Monday. 

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