Petitioners losing faith, report warns

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 November, 2004, 12:00am

Many no longer see government as their saviour

Researchers from a state think-tank have warned the central government that petitioners are losing faith in it and are resorting to drastic action to solve their woes.

A Chinese Academy of Social Sciences report cautioned that an increasing number of petitioners no longer saw the central government as a benefactor that could help them in their struggles against corrupt local bureaucrats, and some have resorted to other measures, such as violence.

The report, 'Flaws of the Petition System and its Political Consequences', studies the cases of more than 600 petitioners across the country and has been submitted to the central leadership for analysis. An excerpt of the report was published in the latest issue of Phoenix Weekly, a magazine published by Phoenix TV.

The report cited a letter circulating among the petitioner community in Beijing that used such words as 'corrupt officials' and 'mad dogs' to criticise the central government.

In another letter, the petitioners lamented how they were mistreated by local officials when they returned from filing their petitions to Beijing. They were detained and beaten and, in some cases, sent to psychiatric hospitals.

'It is publicly known that some local governments use violence to stop petitioners from making their case to central government departments. The retaliation by some local governments against the petitioners is appalling and outrageous,' the report said.

The report said the number of collective petitions, issued by groups of people, to the State Council Petition Bureau increased by 41 per cent last year, while the number of people involved increased by 44.8 per cent. Last year's largest collective petition cases involved more than 800 people.

In the first quarter of this year, the number of petition cases and petitioners to the State Council Petition Bureau were up 99.4 per cent and 94.9 per cent respectively compared to the same period last year.

The report also said that while many petitioners were hopeful they would find redress when they first arrived in Beijing, most lost hope within a week.