Despite more than a quarter century of legal reforms and institution building, China still has holdovers from centuries of its own unique legal tradition. One of these is the practice of petitioning higher authorities to overturn local government decisions.
But China’s opening to the outside world — and the influx of foreigners that has followed — seem to have produced an odd first: a petitioning foreigner.
Julie Harms is an American woman who lives in the southern city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong. For the past year, she has gone on a Chinese-style quest for justice on behalf of her Chinese fiance.
Harms, a tall, blond, 30-year-old Texan and Harvard graduate, stands out among the petitioners in line at the Police Ministry complaints office, tucked away in a downtown alleyway in Beijing.