Phoenix Weekly, a news magazine based in Hong Kong, published an investigative story recently on how local officials in China try to prevent residents in their jurisdiction from petitioning in Beijing.
According to the article, various levels of local governments across China regularly dispatch special personnel to Beijing to look for petitioners from their jurisdiction and take them away from the capital city, in order not to get negative evaluations from the central government.
Yi Daming ( pseudonym) is a retired official from a local judicial department. He dresses in plain clothes and speaks with a little Beijing accent, which he has adopted from years of being posted at a national petitioning office in the capital city. The Beijing accent helps him with his job, which is to help the government of his home province to control petitioners.
Yi has been very successful at what he was assigned to do. With his skillful lobbying, he has managed to destroy nearly a hundred petitions filed at the National Petition Office by people from his home province, thus he helped the provincial government avoid being criticized by the central government.
As the Beijing Olympic Games approaches, the central government of China ordered provincial governments to “reduce petitioning to a minimum” and “make sure there is no abnormal mass petitioning”…
Local officials will do whatever it takes to stop petitioners from coming to Beijng during the Games period, Yi says, they will appoint an unprecedented amount of personnel to accomplish the task.
Even Gansu Province, which has never ranked high among several dozen provinces in the number of their petitioners visiting Beijing, will dispatch a large team of more than 100 people to control Gansu petitioners during the Olympics.
China has put forward regulations defining petition as a legal way for the general public to express their grievances to government departments, however, officials generally see it as a challenge to their authority and a threat to social stability. (Fulltext of a petition decree promulgated by the State Council of China in 2005)
Read a previous CDT post on the topic: illegal petitioning?