Date
23 March 2017
Petitioners in Chongqing demand government compensation earlier this month for forced evictions and relocations for the Three Gorges Dam project two decades ago. Photo: RFA
Petitioners in Chongqing demand government compensation earlier this month for forced evictions and relocations for the Three Gorges Dam project two decades ago. Photo: RFA

Resolve grievances of petitioners locally, Xi tells officials

President Xi Jinping has issued instructions to better address the grievances of China’s petitioners, urging officials to resolve disputes locally before they evolve into bigger problems, Reuters reported.

Tens of thousands of “mass incidents” — the official euphemism for protests — occur each year in China, triggered by corruption, pollution, illegal land grabs and other grievances.

Many people try to use petitions to bypass the legal system and directly bring complaints to the attention of government officials, a system that dates back to imperial times. Some cases do end up in court.

Few cases ever get resolved though, and petitioners can stage noisy protests out of frustration.

Often, if their grievances remain unaddressed, they will travel to Beijing to try to raise awareness, a process that unnerves the stability-obsessed ruling Communist Party.

Local departments must take on the responsibility of comprehensively using laws and policies to educate, mediate and remove obstructions to resolve the people’s reasonable and legitimate legal interests, the official Xinhua news agency cited Xi as saying.

“All local departments must strengthen risk assessment and administration at the source and strive to resolve conflicts and disputes at the grassroots level to nip them in the bud,” he said Thursday.

Despite international criticism, petitioners who arrive in the capital are often forced to return home or held in “black jails”, unlawful secret detention facilities where detainees can be subjected to beatings, sleep and food deprivation and psychological abuse.

China has made a series of efforts to reform the system by cracking down on illegal imprisonment of petitioners and pushing for the process to go online.

The government does not formally acknowledge that black prisons exist.

In 2014, China banned petitioners from taking their grievances directly to higher levels of government without first going through local authorities.

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