Ear to the Ground
China Daily USA Edition profiles Yu Jianrong, a scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who also advocates on behalf of petitioners, rural residents, and other disenfranchised members of Chinese society:
Yu Jianrong has been a chronicler of rural conditions for over a dozen years. But he was not widely known out of the ivory tower until early this year when he used his micro blog to advocate a way to track down missing children. He encouraged netizens, traveling home for the Chinese New Year holiday, to take photos of suspicious targets and post them on their micro blogs. The campaign received widespread media coverage. It was also criticized for invading the privacy of those photographed.
There are about 30,000 files of people like Wang and Peng in Yu’s home, waiting to be catalogued into a computer database. Most of them are petitioners who have exhausted all channels of complaint and were mistreated. But if you think Yu wants to improve the petition system, you are dead wrong.
From the very beginning, Yu has blamed the petition system, rather than those in charge of it, for the conflicts that have flared up. The system is rooted in China’s feudal society, in which ordinary people, seeking to redress grievances, would file petitions all the way to the very top.
“It is this system that has made a mess of our country,” Yu insists. “Every time I express my opinion about it, I touch the heartstrings of officials who work in this field.”