Zhou Yongkang

12,000 petitioners send letter urging democratic reform

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2007, 12:00am


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More than 12,000 mainland petitioners have sent an open letter to Communist Party leaders demanding democratic reform and basic human freedoms, in the face of strict orders from the public security chief for social stability during next week's party congress.

The letter, signed by 12,150 petitioners from 30 provinces, was initiated by four petitioners from Heilongjiang , Hubei , Hebei and Henan , the organisers said yesterday.

It highlights social problems including disputes over rural land seizures, relocation problems caused in urban renewal projects, unemployment, pollution, depleted resources, and a decline in moral standards caused by official abuses of power and disregard for the constitution.

'We believe that working hard together means power, and we hope our strengthening voice can be heard by the central leaders,' Henan farmer Liu Xueli said. 'We four spent more than two months collecting the signatures. Every word in the letter reflects our heartfelt wish.'

Another organiser, Hebei farmer Cheng Yingcai , said all the letter's signatories had suffered grievances.

'We found that the details of our grievances were not unique, because there is injustice everywhere in our country,' he said. 'Our problems can only be solved when the whole political and legal system is refined.'

Among its wide-ranging demands, the letter calls on party leaders to initiate political reforms and to guarantee freedom of expression, the press and association, as set out in the constitution.

It takes the government to task for failing to curb corruption, prevent land seizures and remedy a judicial system which the signatories say fails to protect basic rights.

The letter also demands the abolition of the re-education through labour, or laojiao, system and an end to the persecution of petitioners, who are often rounded up and sent home or imprisoned, particularly during sensitive political events.

Meanwhile, Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang has ordered police nationwide to 'spare no effort' to support security in Beijing to create a 'joyous and peaceful' social environment for the congress.

'All police departments should try to resolve disputes and uncertainties at grass-roots levels when they appear and try to minimise their effect,' Xinhua quoted him as saying.

He asked police to reduce the impact of 'inharmonious factors' and said local public security officers needed to improve their analysis of intelligence.

He also said the ministry would reward individuals or departments who made great contributions to congress security, but punish those whose dereliction of duty led to problems.