Cadres told to heed the people
The Communist Party's central office and the State Council have issued three directives urging local government officials to have direct dialogue with the public and solve problems promptly, mainland media said.
Analysts saw the move as an attempt by the central authorities to cool public anger, which had been fuelled by the remarks of a Peking University professor who said 99 per cent of the people petitioning the government were mentally ill and should be admitted to institutions.
Central China Television announced yesterday that 'the Central Party General Office and State Council General Office' had jointly issued the directives, one of which urged 'governmental officials at all levels to regularly receive petitioners'.
'Party and governmental officials from the central to the local levels should all be organised to go down to grass-roots areas to supervise urgent problems on the spot and listen to public opinions promptly,' the second directive urged, according to the CCTV report.
Officials also needed to solve 'internal contradictions' in such a way as to 'enhance governing power and contribute to a harmonious society', CCTV said.
Peking University professor Sun Dongdong's comments, which were published by China Newsweek last month, triggered outrage among petitioners, who flock to Beijing by the thousands after local governments ignore their complaints.
The incident was a reflection of the petition system, in which people skip local governments and swarm to central governmental departments in the capital to appeal for justice or complain about local authorities' violations of their rights.
Renmin University political scientist Zhang Ming said the directives were a temporary solution to cope with the anger among petitioners and the public as a whole.
'Such directives should soothe public anger for a period of time, and also by urging local officials to have direct dialogue with petitioners, some of their complaints might be solved,' Professor Zhang said.
'This way, the central authorities should relieve themselves of the pressure of facing enormous numbers of petitioners flocking to the capital.'
But Professor Zhang said the directives could not solve the petition disputes and the social problems caused by systemic woes, including injustice, official corruption and abuse of administrative power.
Beijing Institute of Technology commentator Hu Xingdou said the directives showed the central authorities' determination to maintain social stability in a sensitive year, with the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen incident on June 4 and the 60th anniversary of founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1.