Petitions official Xu Jie placed under investigation for corruption
No details given about the detention of Xu Jie, whose profile was removed from the website of the office that handles public grievances
A senior official in charge of handling petitions is being investigated by the Communist Party as authorities announced plans to reform the system for dealing with formal complaints from the public, which some critics argue is rife with corruption.
The detention of Xu Jie, deputy chief of the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, is the latest corruption investigation announced since a meeting of party leaders at the third plenum in Beijing earlier this month promised to intensify efforts to crack down on graft.
Xu had been placed under investigation for serious law and discipline violations, the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a statement yesterday.
The 58-year-old has held various posts handling petitions from the public, Xinhua reported. No further details were given. Xu's official profile on the bureau's website has been removed.
Yu Jianrong, one of the mainland's most influential anti-graft activists, welcomed the investigation of Xu on his Weibo microblog.
The bureau has become one of the worst breeding grounds for graft, said Yu, a professor at the Rural Development Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who has more than 1.7 million followers on the microblogging site.
"Local officials should not be able to bribe the bureau's officials and ask for a case to be withdrawn in return," he said.
The petition bureau's spokesmen declined to comment on their colleague's detention at a press briefing on the reform of the system in Beijing yesterday.
Deputy chiefs Zhang Enxi and Li Gao also declined to comment on allegations of black jails - unofficial detention centres used by local authorities to lock up petitioners.
They said attempts by government officials to intercept and stop "normal" petitioners from handing their complaints was not allowed. Those who repeatedly file complaints or bypass the local government and go directly to the central government are regarded as "abnormal" petitioners who were not protected by the rules that barred local officials from detaining them.
Li confirmed the bureau had scrapped a ranking system that graded provincial and city officials according to the number of complaints against them, but local authorities would still have to report the number of cases.
Outside the press conference venue, about 20 petitioners held up banners airing their grievances. These were later confiscated by plain-clothes police.
One petitioner, Zhao Baozhu from Daqing county in Heilongjiang province, said she had come to Beijing to complain on behalf of 100 people whose homes had been demolished on the orders of a local official.