BEIJING - During a rare visit to China's top complaints department Monday, Premier Wen Jiabao asked officials to be responsible and dedicated to addressing people's complaints, to create conditions for the public to criticize and supervise the government.
Braving the winter freeze, Wen visited the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, the central level department dealing with petitions, in south Beijing Monday afternoon.
It was the first time a Chinese Premier has had face-to-face communication with petitioners in Beijing since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
After entering the bureau's lobby, Wen was surrounded by people filling in petition forms and queuing to submit documents.
Wen shook hands with each of them and asked them their complaint and where they had came from. He told the petitioners that as long as their appeals are reasonable, they will be solved.
Then Wen walked into a reception room where worker Wang Dongxia was listening to Chen Guoan, a petitioner from Boai County in central China's Henan Province.
He asked in detail what complaint Chen were lodging. He then asked the worker to handle the complaint earnestly and in accordance with the due procedures.
In the meeting room, eight petitioners from Tianjin, Jilin, Shandong, Inner Mongolia, Hubei, Hebei, Shanxi and Jiangsu told Wen about their discontent caused by payment delays, land expropriation, housing demolition and labor disputes among other problems.
When responding to the problems of land expropriation and house demolition in rural areas, Wen said the State Council, China's cabinet, has just approved new rules to ensure the rights of property owners in cities.
Wen said, "As some cases of land expropriation and house demolition happen in rural areas, the State Council is conducting research to work out relevant law and regulations to put an end to forced demolitions in rural areas as well."
"Land is the lifeline of farmers," he said. "The government must examine and approve projects using arable land strictly and in accordance with the law...and give reasonable compensation to farmers."
Apart from listening to individual complaints, Wen also solicited opinions from the petitioners on the problems of the current government work and system, as well as on the draft government work report and the 12th Five-Year Program Outline, which will be delivered for review at the annual plenary session of the national legislature in March.
Wen said the government should expand channels for the public to make suggestions, to create conditions for the people to criticize and supervise the government.
Various administrative procedures should be made public and all administrative behavior should be under social supervision, so as to ensure administrative power is exercised transparently, he said.
Wen said letting officials conduct face-to-face communications with petitioners can help solve public complaints timely and at the grassroots level.
He urged officials at various levels to keep in close contact with the public, to make government work consistent with the public will.
During the visit, Wen told the bureau's workers to be familiar with the country's laws and to act lawfully and with ardor.
He urged cadres to properly address public complaints, protect the people's rights and interests, dissolve negative emotions such as depression, and better reflect their will.
An Jun, a petitioner from Tianjin, said, "I've never thought I would be able to talk to the Premier up close. I felt deeply the people-friendly and practical working style of the Premier."
Wang Aiguo, a petitioner from Hubei, said, "I hope officials from various levels can all act like our premier and listen to our opinions."