Philip Pan profiles Liu Yu, a taxi driver from Dazhou, who traveled to Beijing with her colleagues to protest against new permit requirements for cab drivers in her city: "'We carried great hope in our hearts," she said, recalling that day in December 2003. "We believed that the central government would help us, that the heavens in Beijing must be bright.' But nearly a year later, Liu and the cab drivers of Dazhou are a dejected lot, and the faith in the ruling Communist Party that brought them to Beijing has been shattered. One government agency after another has ignored their pleas, and police in the capital have herded them onto buses and shipped them home twice. Several drivers ended up spending time in jail. "
The lengthy Washington Post article, available here, illuminates how the shangfang, or petition, system works for Chinese citizens who have no other recourse for seeking justice against unfair local policies. Recent studies have shown the failures of the system, and the government is now debating ways to institute reforms.