New regulation to improve how govt handles petitions

Updated: 2014-04-25 00:27

By AN BAIJIE (China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

Central government departments will not accept petitioners' complaints if they are supposed to be handled by lower-level government bodies, according to a regulation to be enacted on May 1.

The regulation, issued by the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, stipulates that petitioners are not allowed to bypass authorities to file their complaints, and governments at higher levels will not accept their complaints if they jump rank.

The authorities will also turn down petitions that fall under legislative bodies and judicial departments.

The central government departments will accept complaints about corrupt officials at the provincial level, petitions about issues that should be addressed across provinces and sectors, as well as those that are not properly handled by provincial governments.

The regulation will not block petitioners from claiming rights' violations, and it will streamline the government's duties and address the petitioned issues more efficiently, said Zhang Enxi, spokesman and deputy chief of the State Bureau for Letters and Calls.

"The purpose of this regulation is to clarify the jurisdiction, regulate procedures and improve the efficiency of handling petitions," Zhang said on Wednesday.

"It is expected to help people file petitions in a stepwise manner."

Petitioning, also known as "letters and calls", is the country's administrative system for hearing public grievances. There were 6.4 million petitioned cases from January to October last year, statistics released by the bureau showed.

Many petitioners take their grievances to a higher level if they fail to get satisfactory feedback from local petition offices, but officials often try to stop them from raising such cases with their superiors, which has triggered a number of confrontations in recent years.

Government officials will also be punished if they do not handle people's complaints properly and force the petitioners to turn to authorities at higher levels, according to the regulation.

The bureau encouraged petitioners to submit their complaints through e-mail, letters or phone calls.

The government accepted about 2.48 million online petition cases last year, up 10.9 percent year-on-year, bureau statistics showed.

The petitioned issues should be addressed within 60 days, and all of the petitions will be recorded into a national database, according to the regulation.

In a document released in November, the central government pledged to reform the petition system. Authorities must respond to and settle petitioned cases within the legal framework, the document said.

In a circular issued on March 19, the State Council, China's cabinet, also forbade putting petitioners under any form of confinement and promised to set up a system to dissolve conflicts by lawful means.

"Various political and legal organs should further regulate the handling of lawsuit-related petitions and resolutely avoid blocking the people from normal petitioning by any means," said the circular.

In February last year, 10 people received jail sentences for illegally confining 11 petitioners who came to Beijing from their hometown in Henan province to file complaints. The petitioners were jailed for up to six days in Beijing's Chaoyang district in April 2012.

Gong Weibin, a professor of public administration with the Chinese Academy of Governance, said that many people might choose to petition through higher-level governments as they believe that senior officials can supervise better than lower-level governments.

The petition offices at grassroots levels should improve their work to address petitioners' issues, he said.