2009: PRC Online Petition Websites Increase Rapidly

Swarms of angry people converging on government offices naturally worries officials. They worry especially about people who go to higher levels to report abuses at lower levels of government.  Online petitioning on local governments setting up websites to improve citizen services and respond more quickly to complaints have become more common.   The Chinese central government website has a May 2017 statement discussing ongoing efforts to improve online petitioning.

Online petition websites 网上信访 have been set up by 28 PRC central government ministries and commissions, the first being the Disciplinary Commission of the CPC Central Committee and PRC government Ministry of Supervision 中央纪律委监察部 (a one office, but both party and government nameplates organization) on July 15, 2005.

There are also national and local telephone numbers for reporting corruption. Dial 12309 from anywhere in China to report corruption. The supreme procuratorate website took that number for its URL http://www.12309.gov.cn

Since 2005 and picking up pace during 2009 online petition websites have blossomed all over China. A search on 网上信访 turns up some websites dating back to 2007 but many others are much more recent.

As on many other of these online petitioning websites around China, petitioners can submit a petition and be given a special login and password so they can track responses to their petition. They are promised confidentiality. On the Shanghai website above, you can see a banner rolling up listing logins and dates petitions were submitted, telling petitioners their petition is being examined or inviting petitioners to see the response.

For example:
You can search for these sites by typing wangshang xinfang 网上信访 in Chinese characters into a search engine; narrow it down by adding the name of a province or city. For example this search on google.com.hk on online petition and Sichuan

Petitions on line may be a new step in petition system evolution perhaps, although the old ways of physically visiting the petition receiving bureaus at the city, county, provincial and central government levels or at various bureaus and ministries of the various levels of government continues.

Petition System in a Nutshell

According to Chinese Academy of Social Sciences researcher Yu Jianrong, the petition system was very successful at handling reversals of unfair Party verdicts against people condemned as rights from the 1950s �C 1970s. Later many people used it, as was their right to appeal court or local government decisions or matters local courts refused to accept. Local party boss control of local courts pushed many cases into the petition system channel, and people moved their cases up to higher levels county->province-> central government if they weren’t satisfied at lower levels.

* In 2004, Yu Jianrong at the request of the PRC government, made a large study of the petition system including interviewing one thousand or more petitioner who had come to the petitioner’s village around Beijing. He concluded that well under 1 percent of the petitions were successfully resolved at the central government level, and warned that “petition villages” areas of cheap accommodations near petition bureaus were becoming schools for dissidents, and were fostering the growth of the “rights protection movement” 维权运动

* A 2005 law re-affirmed the right to petition notwithstanding the unhappiness of local governments but restricted the size of groups that could present a petition. Local government officials feared they were being graded on how many petitions about them reached higher levels, and so sometimes sent police from distant provinces to Beijing to retrieve petitioners before they could present their petition. (In Chengdu, there are rumors that the police near the petition offices in Beijing are paid off by the representative offices of the provinces in Beijing to give the offices warning when petitioners show up at the petition office so they can be grabbed and put into confinement prior to being sent home.) In an early July 2008 national teleconference local officials were urged to minimize the numbers of petitioners going to Beijing. (A few months ago in rural Sichuan, I saw a two year old dispute resolution center next to a legal aid request office, perhaps aimed at solving disputes locally before peasants get the idea to petition higher levels of government.

* Petitions on line websites seem to be proliferating in June and July 2009, although some of these sites are about two years old, like the Mianyang City site, the first in Sichuan Province. Just now there are rumors of an anti corruption campaign underway; new regulations issues in July are supposed to be a further improvement in the discipline and inspection system. Setting up many more of these websites recently to take petitions and complaints from the public.

China legal scholar Flora Sapio put up the Chinese text on her blog Forgotten Archipelagos at http://florasapio.blogspot.com/ and at (2015 revision) 中国共产党巡视工作条例 Chinese Communist Party Roving Inspection Work Regulations.

Yu Jianrong  于建嵘  published an article in may asking “Who is Responsible for All those Peasants Flooding into Beijing as Petitioners?” Yu concludes it is the fault of the system. Until rights are protected under the law, they will keep on coming.

Quite a few websites in China host his impressive collections of  Yu Jianrong, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.  Just do a search on his name.

About 高大伟 David Cowhig

Now retired, translated Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and studying some things. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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