County noted for complaints offers 'escort' service to petitioners - with few takers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 June, 2009, 12:00am

A small county in Jiangxi has rolled out a free service to the most unlikely target group - petitioners attempting to complain to government officials - in a bid to assuage ballooning public discontent with social injustice and corruption.

Ruijin county wants to assign a government official to escort each petitioner, the Beijing News reported. The escort's tasks, county petition office director Zhong Chunlin said, would include guiding petitioners to the right places to file their complaints.

'It will be trouble if they go to illegal petition areas such as a square,' he said, adding that the presence of county officials familiar with the system would help prevent 'abnormal' petitioning.

The new policy is among a host of moves Ruijin has introduced in a bid to clear its name. It was notorious as the source of the most petitioners who managed to file complaints in the provincial capital and then do the same in Beijing, the newspaper said.

Not surprisingly, the escort service has attracted few petitioners. Officials blamed a lack of trust on the part of petitioners. According to the Beijing News, only 19 of 496 petitioners who registered in Ruijin in the first quarter used an official escort.

The Jiangxi provincial government has listed Ruijin as a key trouble county that needs to be dealt with.

Under the present system, local-government officials are reprimanded if people under their jurisdiction file a complaint in Beijing.

But the Ruijin government has decided that it will avoid reprimands if petitioners journey to Beijing in the company of an official.

Beijing-based legal expert Xu Zhiyong said the escort policy was a waste of money because it failed to address the core problem.

'When the government is operating without checks and balances, a petition system is useless no matter how perfect it is,' Dr Xu said.