Top public petitions official dismissed

By Zhang Yiqian Source:Global Times Published: 2013-11-29 0:33:01

Chinese disciplinary authorities have decided to remove a senior official in charge of public petitions from public office for suspected serious disciplinary violations.

Xu Jie, deputy chief of the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, will be dismissed from his post, after the Communist Party of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection announced earlier on Thursday that Xu was under investigation, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Though details of the violations are unclear, the bureau and the petition system have been criticized in the past for being a hotbed of corruption and other activities that violate discipline and law.

"There must be reforms to restrict the current petition system," Wei Rujiu, a Beijing-based lawyer told the Global Times Thursday. "The current petition ranking system can lead to expansion of power."

Starting in 2005, the bureau ranked the regions by the number of cases that people petitioned in Beijing, which was linked to the performance evaluation of local authorities, and this system provided room for corruption, he said.

"Local governments under pressure would often bribe the bureau and cancel petition registration numbers," Wei said.

Dong Shaomou, a law professor at Northwest University of Politics and Law, said that in order to keep the number of petitioners low, local governments sometimes also get information from the bureau on who is petitioning and capture the person.

"They intercept the people and detain them, and sometimes it might cause harm to the petitioners," he said.

During a news conference on Thursday, officials from the bureau pledged reforms in China's petition system to better address public issues.

Li Gao, a deputy bureau chief, said in the conference that the ranking system has been abolished.

"Now we only talk to local bureaus when the local petitioners frequently petition in Beijing in an abnormal way, in order to solve the problem," he said.

Although regions have abolished the system, some local bureaus still use it, the Beijing News reported in November.

Yang Qinjun, director of the Yanggu township bureau in Shandong Province said the pressure was lessened with the cancellation of the ranking system, the Beijing News reported.

After the cancellation, local governments can focus more on the issues of the petitioners and less about maintaining their appearance, Yang said.

Wei said the reform can help in reducing corruption. If the governments aren't under pressure for performance, the practice of seizing petitioners and cancelling registration numbers will stop.

Yu Jianrong, a scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who has been calling for the reform of the petition system for years, said at a legal forum held in Hunan Province in November that the government should change local petition reception departments to legal mediation and aid departments.

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