Saving Face in Beijing: Regional Policemen Sent to Intercept Petitioners

A translation at Economic Observer profiles two Beijing-based “interceptors”, employed by local governments to dissuade or otherwise prevent petitioners from registering their grievances.

Zhang said that many petitioners are persuaded to renounce their complaints on their first visit to Beijing, but are then arrested as soon as they get home, which gives them a new determination to make their grievances heard in Beijing.

“I promised them that they wouldn’t be detained if they went home…However, they were arrested the moment they got back,” Zhang said regretfully. The situation is often beyond his control – local officials believe that petitioners blacken their reputation and damage their career prospects.

Another difficulty facing interceptors is that new local officials regularly refuse to clear up the mess left by their predecessors. Zhang has helped reached settlements with petitioners on behalf of his home region, only to see the government there renege on those agreements when new officials are appointed. As a result, men like Zhang lose petitioners’ respect.

Throughout Wu’s 20-year career maintaining social stability, he says that petitioners have had two gripes: state-owned enterprise reform and land seizure. They come from various industries electricity, tobacco, water, and even the army, but they all been deprived of the livelihood.

See also The Dui Hua Foundation’s recent translation on China’s “Machinery of Stability Preservation“, of which the booming interception industry is one facet:

Security companies set out clear and detailed fees for intercepting, detaining, and transporting petitioners on behalf of local governments: 200 to 400 yuan per person for stability control and 200 to 400 yuan per person for restraining measures. Fees for transport vary according to the method of transport, the number of individuals to be transported, and the distance involved ….

Local governments’ fear of petitioning has led to a huge stability-preservation “market” that includes capital liaison offices, security contracts, and “payoffs” and results in all types of rent-seekers, brokers, and thugs out foraging for themselves. Appetites whetted by the favors that can be had in this rent-seeking arena, the capital liaison offices, security companies, and petitioning officials all [seek ways to] protect and expand the “stability-preservation pie.” As this “market” continues to grow, even things that have nothing to do with “stability preservation” can be categorized as “stability preservation” in order to “collect more rents.”

June 16, 2011 9:11 PM
Posted By: