Tables turned on ex-petition official

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 December, 2009, 12:00am

It's one of life's little ironies - the government official in charge of petitions who became a petitioner himself.

Wu Zongming was in charge of the petition office in Guiping city, Guangxi, before he retired seven years ago, but since the government bulldozed his home last July without fair compensation, the 64-year-old has become a full-time petitioner.

Petitioning is a non-judicial mechanism that allows the mainland public to air their grievances with the government. However, as Wu knew all too well, the system is deeply flawed and offers little help to those suffering injustice. In many cases, petitioners are detained and brutally treated in so-called black jails.

Last summer, the government demolished more than 30 homes, including Wu's residence, to make way for a shipping waterway, a major regional infrastructure project, the China Youth Daily reported.

However, despite being promised compensation of 400 yuan (HK$450) per square metre under official guidelines, the local government gave homeowners only 360 yuan. And despite government promises to the contrary, they were asked to come up with 100,000 yuan towards the price of a new home.

On his first petition visit, Wu went to the local department of land and resources, but was given only 10 minutes to make his case.

He then travelled to the provincial government headquarters and the Ministry of Communications, but was unable to meet officials, and on one occasion was fobbed off with an out-of-service phone number.

'I always thought I would be able to bump into at least one or two officials during so many visits,' Wu told the newspaper. 'The system is of little use, but I had to try.'

The story has become a hot topic on mainland online forums, with internet users on the whole taking pleasure from Wu's suffering at the hands of the system of which he used to be a part.

Yu Jianrong, a specialist on the petitioning system at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said interest in Wu's case was due to a growing public consensus that the petition system was flawed - perhaps irreparably.

Evidence for that was the growing number of people appealing directly to the central government in recent years.

But he said: 'Somebody high up who could give petitioners the cold shoulder whenever he wanted [now] begging for protection - it's certainly ironic.'