Beijing plans to exclude grievances against courts from its petition system, in what critics say is a regressive move.
The change is one of several proposed amendments to the petition law, being drawn up as part of the central government's bid to reform the complaints system. The reform had prompted hopes of a more transparent approach to the easing of tensions in society.
According to sources close to the drafting process, being undertaken by the State Council Petition Office, one of the amendments would see grievances related to the judicial system no longer addressed under the petition system.
The draft, endorsed in principle by the State Council on Wednesday, also requires local governments and related departments to quickly publicise the changes and maintain social stability by issuing guidelines to help the public make complaints in an orderly way.
Kang Xiaoguang , from the Centre for China Studies under the Chinese Academy of Science, said the exclusion had 'shut the door for the public to air grievances resulting from injustices in judicial circles'. Sources said complaints related to the judiciary had been specifically excluded by a new clause.
Professor Kang said the 'regressive' proposal over-emphasised judicial independence and neglected the fact that most petitions resulted from or were related to injustice in judicial circles. Petitions are mainland residents' most popular form of seeking redress.
In recent years, many petitioners, after failing to get their plights resolved locally, have flocked to Beijing. The soaring number of petitioners in the capital has come to be seen as a potential threat to social stability.
China's petition offices have been dubbed 'mailboxes' because very few complaints are solved, with the majority passed back and forth between government bureaus.
Yu Jianrong , a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences scholar who recently conducted a survey of petitioners, said most were kept in the dark about their complaints.
'Only two in every 1,000 receive a reply slip, and receiving a slip does not mean their problems are resolved,' said Professor Yu, adding that the results of his survey had been submitted to the central government.