Breaking the Cycle of Petition and Interception

ChinaGeeks’ Charles Custer has translated a Caixin opinion piece by Yu Jianrong of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Yu outlines various problems with and resulting from China’s petitioning system and the parallel system of interceptors and black jails put in place to obstruct it. He presents some proposals for improvement, but concludes that radical political change and complete reform will ultimately be necessary.

“Intercepting petitioners” refers to local officials using various measures to intercept people attempting to petition at the [provincial] or central offices and forcibly taking them back to their hometowns. In China’s current political climate, the intercepting of petitioners has long been an open secret, an “unwritten rule” of petition office stability management work, an uncivilized but tacitly accepted rule for government work, and an important part of the job of those who “greet petitioners.” Whenever the two congresses or National Day or some other “sensitive” time rolls around, many additional ‘petitioner interception’ workers come to Beijing to intercept petitioners from their local area to prevent petitioners from staying in Beijing and increasing the number of complaints about their locale on the record.

[…] Meeting petitioners’ and ‘intercepting petitioners’ are both important reflections of the variation in today’s national petitioning system. Petition officers and officials, local governments, and the central government all participate, using the system as a platform for a kind of game in which they attempt to maximize their own interests. But because of this they have fallen into problems [like the three Yu just listed and those below], this can be called the ‘petitioning paradox.’

[…] The result is that as local governments use even more severe methods to deal with petitioners, the complaints of petitioners become more extreme, creating a vicious cycle.Because of this, the petitioning system has gone from useless to harmful; from reducing pressure to actively increasing it.

Yu was ranked 54th in Foreign Policy magazine’s 100 Top Global Thinkers of 2012 for his ten-year plan for political reform in China.

Ten interceptors were said to have been jailed by a Beijing court early this month for illegally detaining petitioners. The court dismissed this as “fake news”, however, and demanded an apology from Beijing Youth Daily, which first published the story. Petitioners were a key target of the security operation surrounding the recent 18th Party Congress, with some 10,000 detained. Read more about petitioners via CDT, including John Garnaut and Sanghee Liu’s recent account of a former “stability preservation” official’s experience as a petitioner, and Economic Observer’s sympathetic profile of two Beijing-based interceptors.