Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

Petitioning in China, When a Right is Not a Right

Posted by w_thames_the_d on September 15, 2010

China has a system whereby angered citizens from whatever province can come to Beijing to ‘petition’ the government to hear their case or grievance. This sounds like a fair and equitable solution. If a person feels for whatever reason that they are or can be discriminated against in their home province, they merely have to travel to Beijing and let Big Brother take care of them , at least in theory.
The problem is that local officials are promoted and graded upon many things, and of them the most important or money or how much cash the province generates, and how few complaints the province receives, or how few petitioners actually make it to Beijing to complain. Therein lies the rub, as there is a mutually exclusivity of needs. The country wants the people to be able to complain, but the local officials look badly when someone complains, so it is in their best interests to squelch any complaints by any means possible.
Thus, in Beijing, the local provinces have ‘helpers’ who are something akin to spies who look out for locals from their province and then shadow them. if they find an angered villager going to the local offices to petition, they will usually use any means possible to stop this person. The ‘spy’ will supposedly detain, or sequester the ‘trouble maker’ and generally do anything possible all so that the person cannot exercise their right. It is funny as we have one of those petition offices nearby and you just get the sense of the desperation and anguish as the ‘spies’ are on the lookout for potential trouble makers.

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