Capital shuts door on petitions

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 February, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 February, 2004, 12:00am

Local authorities have been told to stop people complaining over land seizures and demolition of buildings from travelling to Beijing as the central government fears violent protests during next month's annual session of the National People's Congress.

The Ministry of Land and Resources has issued an urgent notice calling on local authorities to prevent complainants from going to the capital.

'The National People's Congress is going to be held soon. [Local authorities] must carefully treat people's complaints over land and resources issues. The problem of people going to Beijing to petition must be resolved. It is an important political task that is essential for our social stability,' read the notice, posted on the ministry's website.

It said local land and resources officials must put resolving people's complaints high on their agenda. Authorities have been told to resolve all complaints they received in the latter half of last year before the end of the month.

They have been told to compile a list of all complaints about land disputes and draw up a timetable of when these issues can be solved.

Officials would be punished if the problems could not be resolved according to the timetable and if the complainants repeatedly went to Beijing to petition, the notice said.

The ministry also asked local authorities to delay projects likely to lead to a large number of complaints.

'[Officials] should step up their propaganda work and strengthen law enforcement. They should guide complainants to resolve their problems through normal channels,' it said.

Forced demolition of homes and seizure of farmers' land has led to an escalation of violent protests and complaints on the mainland.

Many people who have lost their homes have gone to Beijing to petition the central government after local authorities failed to listen to their complaints.

Some resorted to extreme methods to voice their anger, with several people setting fire to themselves late last year on Tiananmen Square. No deaths were reported.